Challah With Dried Fruits and Saffron

by Linda Capeloto Sendowski on April 16, 2015

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Since I joined the Sephardic Temple Tefereth Israel after Nona’s passing 3 years ago I have become active in the Cookbook committee group. The Temple is very diverse in its membership with families from all over the Sephardic and Mizrahi world.
We started an annual post-Pesach Challah baking class to fulfill the mitzvah of making the first Challah after passover and I am the teacher. This year to step it up a bit and not repeat the same as last year I invented two new Challah flavors and included one I have posted previously with raisins and raisin water that I have done in the past. All of the Challahs were received (tasted) with rave reviews. I also demonstrated some different braids courtesy of the internet, just follow this   this is a fantastic video.
To bake Challah you will need:
Large Bowl
Measuring cups
Liquid measure pitcher 2 cup size (I prefer glass)
Small glass dish (for checking eggs)
Some counter, wood, granite or other hard surface and Silpat (optional)
Baking Sheet
Parchment Paper to cover baking sheet
Yield 2 medium Challahs
3 extra large eggs, room temperature
6 cups high gluten flour, or better for bread flour, used at different times in recipe
2 packets of active dry yeast (about 4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup tepid water
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup honey like orange blossom or clover
1/2 cup safflower or sunflower oil
2 generous teaspoons salt
1 generous teaspoon ground anise (optional)
1/4 cup sultanas (white raisins)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
1/4 cup candied orange peels
1 beaten egg
sesame seeds for garnish
To Make Dough:
1. Crack eggs into a glass bowl and check, set aside
2. Measure 3 cups flour into large mixing bowl
3. Place yeast and sugar in glass measuring pitcher , place saffron in 1/4 cup water in small glass bowl to dissolve
4. Add water and saffron with water to yeast, let it sit for 3 minutes
5. Add honey to yeast and water, let it sit for 3 minutes
6. Add oil to yeast and honey water, let it sit 1 minute
7.Add the yeast liquid to flour in large mixing bowl
8. Add eggs to flour
9. Mix all with your hands or a wood spoon until smooth and sticky
10. Add 2 more cups flour, add salt, add anise, mix for a moment
11. Add all dried fruit and candied peel, then mix until dough is sticky but forming a ball
12. Place 1/2 cup flour on kneading surface, reserve last 1/2 cup of flour in case dough is still sticky after kneading. Knead dough until all is incorporated and smooth.
13. Place dough back in mixing bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and then with a tea towel. Place in a warm draft free area and let dough rise for two hours.
14. When dough has risen, place dough back on kneading surface (I recommend a large silpat, it saves cleanup) separate into pieces depending on how many braids or if you want to make one or two challah. Roll and then braid Challah.
15. Place formed Challah on a parchment covered baking sheet to rise a second time. Cover with a tea towel and back into draft free warm spot for one hour.
16. Preheat oven to 350° F. After Challah has doubled, gently brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds. Place in hot oven and bake for approximately 1/2 hour.
17. Serve fresh or freeze after completely cool. Wrap in heavy duty foil to freeze, reheat for 10 minutes in oven after defrosting

Some Helpful Tips:
1. Use Room Temperature Eggs
2. Do Not Pack Flour Down, It Should Be Light
3. Add Salt After You Make The Initial Sponge With Second Flour Addition
4. Use Extra Large Eggs
5. Always Hold Back 1/2 Cup Flour To Avoid Hard Dough
6. Use Better For Bread High Gluten Flour
7. Buy A Large Silpat To Knead On
8. Use Regular Active Yeast, Not Rapid Rise
9. Make A Soft Dough
10. When Forming Let Dough Rest In Between Separating Pieces And Rolling Out Ropes. Don’t Smash It Too Much, A Light Touch Is Better For Rising. If Dough Is Difficult To Work With, Let It Rest A Couple Of Minutes And Then It Will Relax And Roll Out Much Easier.
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