"When you braid challah, you make it a little fancier," says Uri Scheft of New York City's Breads Bakery. "It's that extra special effort that makes it a nice bread."
And for the upcoming Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration with lots of brisket, chilled chopped liver and hefty honeyed cakes, you want a really nice bread.
Lucky for you, Scheft's stepping up the challah game with his stunning festive version (see the recipe), a seed-studded round of airy, Hawaiian roll-like dough—and he's down to teach you how to pull it off, too.
"Professionally, I've been making challah for the past 20 years, but I've been watching my mom make it every Friday since I was a child," Scheft says. "I didn't know I was going to be a baker, but I loved working with and touching the dough."
That knack for tinkering has led to Israeli-born, Danish-pastry-school-trained chef to craft one whopper of a challah. He recently stopped by the Tasting Table Test Kitchen to show us how to make this beautiful wreath of challah scattered with five types of seeds, just in time for the holiday.
"When it comes to challah, I try to do things a little less," explains Scheft. "I don't knead it to the gluten's full potential and I don't bake it all the way."
After baking "many, many thousands" of challah loaves, Scheft has collected a few tricks for making a pristine round. Too much kneading won't give the same lovely layered structure of the bread and too much time in the oven dries it out, so it won't be the same loaf one hour out versus one day out.
And then there's the whole braiding thing. Scheft showed how to do it, step by step (see the slideshow), so it's all ready for your New Year's feast, or any dinner (or breakfast) that might benefit from a hot, fresh-baked amazing-looking homemade bread.
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