Here’s a common query I get from many of you out there and this time, instead of only responding to the person writing to me, I would like to share it with all of you.
The answer to this dough and rising issue is one that I know so many challah bakers need to know:
I make challot because both my kids (ages 3 and 1) are allergic to egg and the shop bought ones usually have egg in them. My recipe uses fresh yeast, and then all the usual ingredients except eggs.
I made some today, left the dough to rise for a little over 3 hours as I had to go out and it rose beautifully (see photo) and was very airy.
I knocked it back, shaped the loaves, and left them to rise again for about an hour.
This is when the problem occurs. After they have been baked they never rise more than about an inch. They expand outwards but not upwards. I am sure there isn’t a problem with the yeast as the dough always rises brilliantly when left before shaping but just doesn’t rise again after shaping and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I’d really appreciate any advice you can give.
Answer from Tamar Ansh:
Hi and thanks for writing in! Your problem is not really that uncommon – it happens to lots of people. Here’s what I think is most likely the issue.
Your dough is a bit too loose, and too wet. While this will yes net you airier challahs and those that rise a lot, you need to put a bit more flour into your dough so it will hold its shape after rising. I suggest adding in another half cup to a full cup of flour to your dough when you are preparing it.
If this makes the dough too tough, add in a bit more liquid again although not too much and also a bit more oil. Your final dough should be smooth and elastic feeling without being too sticky and too soft.
Try this tip and let me know if it works for you. This way, when you go to shape (re: braid, plait) your challah it will hold it’s shape better. It should also be easier to shape without sticking to your hands or work surface, and it will also rise upwards as well as outwards, thereby giving you a higher challah.
Another solution that I know helps a lot of people is to use a “challah pan”, which is an oval shaped pan that comes in many different sizes to accommodate small to very large challahs. This way your challah cannot spread out, it is forced to rise upwards. (I do sell these pans in Jerusalem, not for overseas shipping though, if anyone is interested.)
Thank you to those who sent me warm words and stories of what you experienced at our grand ELC Jerusalem Challah Bake the week of the Shabbos Project. It was so meaningful to me to read your stories. Below are a few that I have permission to share.
If you have more feedback you can still share it with me. I would love to hear from you!
Dear Mrs. Ansh,
I just wanted to write and thank you for the wonderful evening at the Great Challah Bake. In addition to the incredible feeing of bonding with so many other Jewish ladies and girls, and doing a mitzvah I have never been able to do before with a bracha, I felt that the evening was personally healing to me.
I was there with my daughter, who had a difficult teenage-hood and is not necessarily 100% with frumkeit anymore, although she is trying her best and I’m really proud of her. Standing together, kneading our doughs together, saying our own personal tefillos, we experienced a bond which had been missing for so long.
I could not stop crying, and she couldn’t stop hugging me.
When we took the bus home, before she got off at her stop she kissed me and said, “Mommy I love you so much. I want you to know you are my main role model.”
In addition to strengthening the bond between me and my daughter, I felt that my own bond with Yiddishkeit/Hashem which had been strained during the difficulties of the last years was renewed. I am so grateful to you for providing the environment for this to take place. Many thanks…
I was at The Pavilion last Thursday evening for the Challah Bake and I would like to thank you and the whole team who prepared such a wonderful experience for us all. I always try and go to hear Rabbanit Yemimah Mizrachi whenever possible and she was the icing on the challah! Together with the Kallah!
However, I would like to thank you, Tamar, for such an inspirational evening. I make challah every so often but now I am inspired to try it every week. Your explanations on the ingredients and your guide whilst we were all making the dough were amazing.
It was indescribable to attend this event with so many other women, all there for one purpose and all making challah together. Your words of Chizuk, your professionalism, and your spirituality in what making challah meant to you were all a great lesson to me.
Not only did I enjoy the evening, I enjoyed telling other people about it, and I enjoyed the whole mitzvah of making them, kneading them, Hafrashat Challah, plaiting them, and ultimately, eating them. I really felt the mitzvah.
Tizku L’Mitzvot, Telchi Mi Choyil Ad Choyil,
This past Thursday night (Nov. 10, 2016) was one of the highlights of my entire challah demonstration career.
I was zocheh to give a challah event – far more than just a demo – in front of around 1,000 women from every walk of life here in Yerushalayim, Ir HaKodesh as part of the worldwide Shabbos Project.
A Word of Thanks
Before beginning my story, I would like to publicly thank Rabbi and Mrs. Yehoshua Wechsler of the Emek Learning Center (ELC) who stood behind this event, took upon themselves all the millions of details: people to help put it together, finding donors, and much, much more. The Wechslers put in more than 1000% to make it all come out as great as it did!
● Bar Mitzvahs
Emek Learning Center (ELC) staff, such as the Smiths, the Berzons, the Meyers, and countless others took responsibility for logistics, and preparing the venue layout and the ingredients – which is it’s own “parsha” all by itself.
The ELC provides Jewish education, enrichment and guidance to the Jerusalem Anglo community. It was a singular pleasure to work with the warm and caring Rabbis and staff at ELC!.
Surprise! It’s a Kallah
First on our agenda of the evening was the talk being given by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, scheduled to begin at 7:10 pm. Sometime around 6 or so, as I was standing at the entrance to the hall taking a drink and a bit of a break, an older Israeli woman walks over to me and asks (in Hebrew), “Are you the one doing the hafrashat challah tonight?”
“Yes,” I answered, wondering how she knew that.
“My daughter is a kallah, and she’s getting married in the hall adjacent to this one. Could we ask for Rabbanit Mizrachi to give her a bracha when she gets here?”
“Certainly!” I assured the mother, while mentally doing gymnastics on how we’d get this done, as our schedule for the night was beyond packed. “Come back at 7 pm exactly because the Rabbanit only has 20 minutes with us.”
Escorting the Queen with Song
Shortly before 7:00 I made sure to get to the front of the room so as to be able to catch the Rabbanit before she got up on stage. In just two seconds I briefed her on what was about to happen.
When the kallah walked into the room, as one, the whole room of around 1,000 women rose and stood up to greet her. The kallah was glowing, she was so moved. Then she got to the front where Rabbanit Mizrachi waited her.
The Rabbanit gave her a hug in front of everyone and a beautiful bracha.
Rabbanit Mizrachi also told her that on the day of her wedding she is a malka and she should now bless us all of us – which she did –
And then the room burst into song!
Women and girls went into high gear, jumping to the front of the room where the kallah stood, linking arms and dancing wedding style right there. Then we escorted the kallah down from the stage, danced with her, and continued on all the way back to her hall.
Well! Now THAT was certainly a highly different beginning to our challah event than any of US could have planned – I can guarantee that no other challah bake in the world probably had a Kallah on her wedding day at their event!
Getting Our Hands in the Dough
All that dancing and the unexpected gift of a kallah to grace our evening set the tone for the rest of the night.
We launched right into the holiness of challah.
After a brief intro about challah I explained how we would make our dough with so many participants; exactly how to measure with what we had provided in the bowls in front of each person and in what order.
We put on our aprons and gloves and got started.
Girls Aged 5, Women Aged 90, and Every Age in Between – Performing Hafrashas Challah
At this point I explained what we were about to do for the main part of the whole evening – our mitzvah of hafrashas challah.
I reviewed some of the halachos that are necessary to know before beginning, how actually to perform the mitzvah – because for many in the room, this was really their first time doing the mitzvah!
In fact, we had our oldest participant, a woman of over 90 k’ah, tell me afterwards that this was her first time doing this mitzvah too!
We had participants from aged five…
all the way to age 90+ and everything in between.
The 1,000 Woman Amen
Then I stopped for a minute and told everyone, “Before we begin, I’m going to go first. Out of this whole room filled with SO many beautiful, holy neshamot, what do I want from all of you? I want your Amen’s. I ask that when I say my bracha aloud, that every one of you please answer Amen to me – ladies, that means we’ll have approximately one thousand Amen’s from all of this!
And when it is your turn, try to do it in pairs; one makes her bracha, the other should answer Amen, and then the reverse – and then PRAY.
That is why we are all here tonight, to gather to use this tremendous “eit ratzone” to pray together. It’s so powerful – look at all the hundreds of zechusim we are meriting to have together – Thursday night which is considered Friday, ie Erev Shabbos + over 900 women together + the achdus of just being together + hafrashas challah itself + the best part of it, being in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, just a mere few meters from the makom hamikdash itself – no other challah bake around the world outside Jerusalem can claim that – it’s just incredible!”
I closed my eyes and began…and as I finished my bracha, I heard the whole room thunder in answer, so many Amens, from so many kinds of women.
Besides that, I realized I had also heard Amens from behind me. All the Israeli sound, video and mic guys standing behind me had answered Amen too…
There’s nothing like the Jewish neshama.
The room grew hushed as so many hundreds started doing their own hafrashot simultaneously, with the many, many tefillos… and while the Shaw sisters softly played “Vezakeini” from their instruments, we covered our eyes and prayed and prayed.
We Want Kohanim!
Volunteers went throughout the room gathering together our separated pieces of dough. Those pieces that we still aren’t able to give to a Kohen in the Bais Hamikdash as we still don’t have our Mikdash.
As the Rabbanit told us – it shows Hashem that we miss Him, that we still remember His House and that we want Him back again! We can’t even use this piece of dough but we still separate it and still keep it holy because we want to show that we want Him back as well.
Bursting into Song
Before I knew it, the whole room exploded in song and dance; everyone grabbed someone, and we danced our excitement, our unity, our show of Hashem’s mitzvohs to us TOGETHER!
It was one of the highlights of the night – we kept singing, we kept dancing…
Song after song, hands over each other’s shoulders…
Hands grabbing hands, girls, women united arms linked to each other, singing at the top of their voices… “Yachad, kol yisroel Yachad!”
Once we all calmed back down again, the shaping began.
And then, good Shabbos everyone – time to take your beautiful challahs home with you and bake them, “L’kavod Shabbos Kodesh!”
I’m Still on the “High”
I came home, and everyone who was with me felt the same way – it was so hard to leave, to let it go, to break up and go back to being just me…but the feelings stayed on.
Coming home in a ‘high’ and yet…I’m still ‘up there’ – it was SUCH a beautiful evening.
Dancing at the Geulah
Can you imagine how much more powerful it will be when the Geula will really be here, here in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh and we will all get to dance together then?
We were of the only ones who got to perform this mitzvah b’rov am right here in Yerushalayim, just a few meters away from the site of the actual Bais Hamikdash! The thought is mind boggling!
Follow along as you shape your challahs, and enjoy beautiful, delicious results!
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Let me know how your challahs turn out… I can’t wait!
To keep the challah excitement going, you will receive additional challah tips, techniques and insights that I share throughout the year as well.
A reader named Esther sent in her favorite of Tamar’s challah tips:
I have been baking challahs for more years than I can remember and have tried all sorts of tips light and fluffy.
I have tried:
Punching down the dough in the middle of rising
And many more
The winner is:
Tamar’s recommendation to knead for 10 minutes, then rest the dough, then knead again for 4 more minutes in order to fully activate the yeast.
My challahs and rolls are rising considerably more than they used to and are consequently lighter too. This
also means an increased yield per kilo. Thank you!
Ideal Challah Baking Temperature
The best baking temperature for *most* challahs is about 190°C / 365-375°F.
Ideal Challah Baking Times
All times are approximate.
Small rolls: 12-15 minutes. Medium sized challahs: 30-35 minutes. Very large challahs vary depending on their exact weight. The average baking time for a challah made with 900 grams – 1 kilo (about 2 lbs.) of raw dough before being baked will take around 40- 43 minutes to bake through.
How to Bake Your Challahs Evenly
No more doughy middles!
Question: “My challahs rise okay and seem to bake fine but when we slice them open they are too doughy or not done enough in the middle. Other times they seem to sag in the center or fall inwards. How do I take care of this?”
To get challahs to bake evenly, you should check several things, to see which is the culprit.
1. Check that your oven is working properly. Get an oven thermometer and insert it into your oven’s central area. Turn the oven on. When the oven is supposed to be at its designated temp, about 15 – 20 minutes into the time after you have turned it on, check what it says.
2. Do all of your other baked items bake okay and the problem is only your challahs? If this is what’s happening, it could be that your challahs have simply not been inside the oven long enough. If so, increase your baking time by another 5 minutes for your challahs. Don’t worry if the tops get browner, that’s fine.
3. Check with a timer, how long your challahs are rising. Maybe they rose faster than the recipe stated and they are actually a bit over-risen. This will cause challahs to fall inwards once they are egged. If this is your problem, for your next batch of challahs, set a timer for the rising time to be 5-10 minutes less time than you normally would have let them rise.
How to tell if challahs are baked through evenly
Completely baked-through challahs should have browned tops AND, equally important, baked-through and browned bottoms.
To check this, take a long flat spatula and pick up the challahs before your take them off of the tray to cool. If they are firm and browned through on the bottoms as well, they should be done.
Two-tone Flower Challahs
I love making these for Shavous. They are so easy to do, look so nice and even come out sort of flower-y shaped. There’s no specific “minhag” to make challahs like a flower for Shavous; it’s rather just something I enjoy doing in honor of Shavous.
Make a batch of white dough and a batch of whole wheat dough.
Grab some round pans.
For each round pan, make 3 balls of equal sizes white dough and 3 balls of whole wheat dough.
I do something like 70 grams of dough for every ball; if your pan is large you will need more balls of dough. For the center ball I did ‘half and half’!
Space the balls slightly apart so they have room to grow together as well as upwards. Let them rise for 35-40 minutes.
Brush with risen egg and then choose toppings to put on the different sections of the ‘flower’.
I did two sections poppy, two sesame, two oatmeal and the center with sunflower seeds.
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.
Slide the topped challah into the oven and bake for 30 minutes until browned top and bottom.
Let it cool on a wire rack and freeze until the day of use.
Beautiful, and delicious! The sections will just slide apart when you pull on them, or you can cut slices with a challah knife too.
Substituting Whole Wheat Flour Instead of White Flour
A frequent question I receive is about replacing white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour. Here is today’s question from Suri:
I have made your challah (from A Taste of Challah cookbook) many times and it’s delicious. How can I tweak it by making whole wheat using 5 lb bag of whole wheat flour?!?
Whole wheat challahs are so nice, especially if you make part of the dough as rolls that you or family members can use for sandwiches during the week. When I do that, I measure the dough at 100 grams each and them shape rolls with them. This way they are portion controlled.
5lbs of flour is equal to 16-17 cups flour, which is the amount of flour I used in most of my recipes in A Taste of Challah; on purpose since this is the minimum amount of flour necessary according to rov poskim in order to be mafrish challah with a bracha from the dough.
To make whole wheat challahs just substitute whole wheat for the white flour in any recipe you like and add in another 1/4 – 1/2 cup water to the dough also, as whole wheat absorbs more water than white flour does, especially during the first rise of the dough.
I have a special treat for you: a sprouted wheat challah recipe from one of our readers, Chava Dumas!
Here it is, in Chava’s own words:
These humble healthy challahs look so heimish to appear alongside Tamar’s elegant professional looking challahs, but indeed they have an incredible taste from the sprouted wheat kernels.
When I first started making them, my kids said, “Wow, Imma what did you put in these challahs?” And you know, coming from kids (teenagers!) this is a BIG TIME compliment!
Sprouted wheat– Challah made from the flour of ground sprouted wheat has the extra benefits of greatly increased nutritional value, plus the germination of starch into easier to digest natural sugars. An amazing special flavor!
Challah topping– Decorated with a combination of different colored seed toppings, these challahs can remind us of the manna we received for forty years in the wilderness after we were liberated from Egypt.
This is our “Dumas family” recipe!
Sprouted Whole Wheat Challah
4 cups warm water (or more)
2 tablespoons dry yeast
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon sea salt
12 cups (~1.5 kilo) sprouted whole wheat flour (or sprouted spelt flour)
Combine warm water, honey and yeast.
Add flour, one cup at a time until dough is soft and springy. Begin to knead until dough does not stick to your fingers, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Place dough in a large bowl, cover with a cloth. Let it rise for about 1 or 2 hours, until doubled.
Punch down, knead again.
Divide into balls to roll into ropes for braiding.
Place in oiled bread pans (or use baking paper). Let rise for about 45 minutes.
Brush with whisked egg. Sprinkle with a variety of toppings: white and black sesame seeds, flax, sunflower, pumpkin, or chopped almonds.
Bake in a pre-heated over 350 F. (175 C) for about 30 minutes.
This recipe makes approximately four loaves the size of what you see in the photo below.
Chava Dumas is an educator, certified doula, women’s health advocate and cancer support counselor. Read more special tips in her life-changing book Prepare for Pesach B’simchah! 40 Lifesaving Lessons to Help you Make it to the Finish Line a book that helps everyone celebrate the gift of life every day!