Sunday, September 30, 2012

King Arthur's No-Knead Challah

My great-grandfather was Jewish, which is why my family would go down to Richard's Deli and get a smorgasbord of cold cuts like pastrami, roast beef, corned beef, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and sour pickles for dinner.  We also got standard take-out very frequently, but no one else I knew loved Richard's like we did. I always demanded potato pancakes. Which, when eaten with applesauce, is pretty much like having French fries AND dessert for dinner.  What I didn't love so much as not ever getting Wonder Bread for my peanut butter sandwiches, but my mother always insisted upon rye. I didn't know it at the time, but I'm sure the culinary legacy of my great-grandfather played some role in her taste preferences, even though all of his children and grandchildren were raised Roman Catholic.

Later, after the divorce, my mom and I would go to 'eat in' at the deli, ordering the house special of a hot brisket sandwich served on two potato pancakes as the 'bread.'  I could barely finish 1/4 of it and I'm sure that despite all of the years of running, broccoli, and healthy eating, some of it is still wedged within my digestive tract.

I totally identified with Sally J. Freedman of Judy Blume's Starring Sally J. Freedman as herself, had an unrequited crush on a very attractive and very religious member of the swim team in high school; I studied Judaism on the graduate level and if you believe Lenny Bruce, pretty much everyone from the New York-New Jersey area is kinda Jewish.

So that is my 'challah cred' in terms of baking this no-knead challah recipe from King Arthur flour.  I know, I know, there is no more goyishe-sounding name for a flour company than King Arthur, but if you read the lively debate in the comments, apparently a very large percentage of their website readers are Orthodox Jewish women.  Who knew?

I also know that challah is usually only made 'round' for Eosh Hashanah, but I'm not making any pretense of tradition--anyway, if it's good enough for 99 percent of KA's commentators, it's good enough for me. 

Anyway, although I sometimes deviate from the recipe and throw crazy ingredients and put my own spin on things, I'm not so meshuggenah as to go 'baking freestyle' on my VERY FIRST CHALLAH EVER. So, you'll have to go to the website for the recipe, because I made it 'as written.'  (My rule as a  baking blogger is that I will write out my version of a published recipe if I change more than three ingredients, which I normally do).

You'll note that for baking according to volume, versus weight, KA suggests a range from 63/4 cups to 7 3/4 cups of flour. The optimal amount is 33 ounces, and the variation is basically dependent on whether you have a light or heavy hand with flour.  I ended up using 7 1/4 cups FYI.

Also, since I didn't care if the loaf was parve, I used melted butter rather than oil (KA says you can use either) and omitted the sesame seeds because I didn't have any on hand. 

My main 'issue' was that the dough was very, very sticky.  VERY sticky.  And upon baking the braiding obviously faded a great deal.  While I was initially going to blame gentile incompetence upon this, another baker had the same problem, and her blog is called Couldn't Be Parve

Even though it didn't produce a traditional braided, chewy challah, based upon the taste I would definitely recommend this recipe.  KA also has a great tutorial  on the process. This recipe was incredibly easy and really gave me confidence.  I wouldn't say it is my go-to recipe, though: I will be trying other no-knead challah recipes in the future.  The recipe yields three loaves, but you can use the other 2/3rds to make a coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, or various other sweet, yeasty products.


  1. My entire experience with challah is that once a Jewish blogger friend posted a picture of a Mr. Universe type bodybuilder (I can't remember exactly why, but it was no doubt for purposes of mocking him) and I said in the comments that he looked like a loaf of challah. Evidently this is offensive? I still don't know. But she took me off her blogroll and stopped reading my blog after that. Maybe I should have compared him to a marble rye instead.

  2. Offensive? That sounds pretty sexy to me!