A very very frequent question I get goes something like this:
"I made a challah dough and it looked good. But after I've shaped it and it is on the baking tray, it seems to rise out instead of upwards and the end result is a flat, wide challah that, although it still tastes good, really doesn’t look that nice. What can I do to make them nicer, aside from using a loaf or oval shaped pan?"
There are lots of reasons a challah could spread out and flatten like that. I've been making challah "free form" for years already and I never use any fancy equipment -- just a large cookie sheet or oven tray, lined with parchment paper. My challahs of course grow more in the oven, but they grow up, and only spread out minimally, thereby coming out high and beautiful.
A lot of it has to do with the way it’s shaped. A three strand challah will be more flat than a six strand. I spend an entire chapter in my book doing step by step photos and instructions on over 17 different ways to braid challahs, and what the results look like. It's likewise demonstrated on my professional DVD. All can be seen and obtained on my website.
If they spread like that before baking, it's often also the dough: is your dough very very soft to handle, almost like cotton? With no real form? Then you need to toughen it a bit more; use a bit less water and a bit more flour. Here's a good recipe that should hold its form and also come out really good, Quick & Easy Egg Challahs.
Another reason it could be losing its shape, which is a very frequent cause I see people doing, is OVERRISING the challahs after they are shaped. If the challahs are left to rise for over an hour plus, then they will lose their shape or sometimes poof and fall flat during the baking process.
Another good tip is to sprinkle a very small, fine layer of flour over the strands of dough, directly before shaping them. I did it only after I connected the six strands at the top and made sure to leaves the ends of each strand unfloured. It seemed to help, although my usual challahs hold their shape pretty well even without this tip. Try it and see if it helps you, as it has helped many other women.
I just got another great tip from a friend I sat next to at a wedding the other night --- if you'd like your egg glaze to look 100% clean without that "drip" look so many of us have, blend the eggs in your hand blender first, then smear them on. The egg wash will go on evenly that way and there are no drips. Next time I make challah I hope to try it out myself and see what happens.
Let me know if this helps you!
Win a copy of A Taste of Challah and learn all the challah baking tips and tricks for a perfect challah every time. Here's how to enter:
As much as I love Challah tips, I also love Household tips! It’s almost always one of the first things I will look over in any publication, newspaper or magazine and since I have such limited time for any kind of ‘free reading’, this already says a lot! I’ve gained countless little nuggets of information and useful, practical advice this way over the years and have always wanted to do something with it.
Here’s a cute example just in time for Rosh Hashana, our ‘honey holiday’ seasonal food…
Honey Measuring Tip:
When measuring out honey for a cake or cookie recipe (yes, we’re going to have them up on this site shortly), first measure the oil necessary for the recipe. Then, using the same measuring cup you used for the oil, pour in the amount of honey needed. Because the cup had oil in it first, your honey will just slide right out of the measuring cup, no scooping or sticky-finger trying necessary…
It occurred to me that just as I enjoy these precious little nuggets of information, I’m sure others probably do too – and I would love to be able to share this together!
I would like to compile as many tips as possible, so we can share then with each other. All household, organizational and cooking/baking tips are welcome.
Just post yours in the comments below and I will choose the best ones to put on my website. And one will win the cookbook.
One winner will be chosen by online randomizer from qualified entries only. Must be US or Israel resident of at least 18 years of age. Contest ends September 20th 2011 at 2 pm EST.