7 Species Challah

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7 species challah

Celebrate the New Year of the Trees with a gorgeous 7 Species Challah. Impressive and delicious, this challah recipe is truly a delicious way to memorialize nature and Israel.

Modern bread making utilizes a sponge instead of old-fashioned “proofing yeast”. Modern yeast is mostly reliable making that step unnecessary. A sponge yields a flavorful and better textured end result.

Cultivated yeast is a “magnet” for wild yeast (which is literally everywhere) and adds flavor and density to loaves, also allowing you, the bread baker, to use less yeast in your recipe. Less yeast means your loaves won’t stale as quickly as commercial loaves or those that don't utilize a sponge.

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 2 large loaves or 4 smallServings

Ingredients

Sponge

  • ½ cup warm water
  • ½ cup pomegranate juice, at room temperature
  • 2½ teaspoons yeast
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt

Dough

  • 1 cup barley flour
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, such as Colavita extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup silan, date (honey) syrup
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4 - 5 cups bread flour
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup dried figs, stemmed and chopped

Egg Wash

  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preparation

Sponge:

1. In a mixing bowl for a stand mixer, combine water, pomegranate juice, yeast, bread flour, and salt. Cover and allow to rise for 1 to 3 hours. The surface of the sponge will appear puffy and spongy in texture with bubbles and divots. The sponge will also smell rich and yeasty with a bit of an alcohol aroma. Those are the flavor building blocks for good bread!

Dough:

1. Add barley flour, evoo, silan, whole eggs, yolks, flour, raisins, and figs to sponge. Knead until a dough that is slightly tacky forms. You don't want to add too much flour to produce a dry dough. Flour needs to rehydrate and a tacky dough allows enough moisture to do that.

2. Either cover and refrigerate dough overnight or cover and allow to rise about 2 to 3 hours in a warm spot before braiding. If you cover and refrigerate, the next day allow dough to come to room temperature before braiding.

3. Once dough has risen, braid or pan as desired on a greased baking sheet or pan. Cover and allow to rise at least 2 to 3 hours. A long second rise gives the dough better flavor, so do not rush the second rise!

Egg Wash:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Whisk egg and water. 

3. Brush egg wash on challah. Allow to “set-up” on dough for 10 minutes. Brush dough a second time for a lacquered effect.

4. Bake at 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes, rotate baking pan, and bake an additional 12 to 15 minutes or until you hear a hollow sound when bread is thumped gently.