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Good challah, bad challah. What makes it so?

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I have a craving for challah after reading lots of recent threads on the SF board. But after all these years on the West Coast I think I’ve forgotten everthing about good challah except it really isn’t found in this area. The words artisan and challah don't really go together, IMO.

I guess there are different kinds: water vs. egg; sweet vs. not-so-sweet, etc

From my long ago memory challah has a rich, soft yellow-from-egg yolks interior. The shell is sort of like a brioche but a little thicker and harder with a gloss.. Not quite crusty, cruchy or crispy but with a little texture. The bread itself has it’s own texture, not quite Hawaiin bread, not babka-like, not a brioche. Dense yet fluffy, sort of .

Dry, moist, white, buttery, sweet, cakey are not words I think are associated with a good challah.

What is with whole wheat challah? That seems wrong.

Anyway, what is a good challah to you? What are some delicious, if not authentic variations?

Some interesting stuff about Challah I never knew:

Wikipedia on challah
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challah

The food time line on challah for those people where wikipedia doesn’t do it for them.
http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodbread...

A Chowhound challah recipes.
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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  1. I made challah today, and it was the best batch yet, in my opinion. I used the recipe in Baking With Julia, and the loaves came out soft, tender, slightly chewy (but not tough), buttery, and delicious. The texture is a big part of it, and I've found that using the dough hook in my KitchenAid mixer makes a huge difference. Even when I would knead the recommended amount of time etc, the texture this way is far superior. This recipe uses a combination of sugar and honey, but it's not a sweet bread
    http://areyouhungryyet.blogspot.com/2... (the bread looks huge, but it rose perfectly, and there were no air bubbles or holes when we sliced it.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chocolatechipkt

      That looks beautiful. I keep seeing the word 'moist' associated with challah and I'm guessing it means something other than I'd associate with the word. Do you mean rich and eggy?

      1. re: Chocolatechipkt

        Does your challah come out with a good crust? I like mine a bit crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, but I have never managed both at the same time when I make it at home. I have to knead it by hand... maybe I should be kneading longer or make someone with stronger hands do the hard part...

      2. Thanks! I think people maybe say "moist" to describe challah because of its richness, with the eggs and milk and butter keeping it a wetter dough and final bread than, say, a baguette. The inside of a good challah is definitely moister, though I wish I could find a better word to describe it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chocolatechipkt

          Your memory and mine of challah seems to be the same...and I also would DEFINITELY call it "moist"..I wish I had some now with some fresh sweet butter......and don't forget how wonderfully it toasts, and makes rich 'custardy' "French " toast!