Czernowitzer Challah

Day 13 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Of course this is not the first time the region has been in turmoil. Czernowitzer Challah originates in what is now the the south west city of Chernivtsi. At the start of the 20th Century it was populated and governed by Jews from all over Europe. In just one of the horrific events of the Second World War most of the Jews from the city were shipped to Auschwitz.

This is my modified version of the yeasted recipe in Maggie Glezer’s “A Blessing of Bread” which also supplied the historical information. The sourdough conversion, method and timings are my own.

I bravely decided on a four-strand braid, never having done one before, but choose your own shape.

Lightly beat the eggs and stir in the other liquids. Add the flour, salt and sugar and stir and squeeze through your fingers to form a dough. Knead the dough ten times, rest 5 minutes or so. Repeat three times.

Bulk ferment four hours, stretch and fold, two or three times.

Not sure if this is allowed but, after three hours of bulk, I divided the dough in four and gave each piece a little pre-shape in the direction of becoming a full-blown strand.

At the end of the fourth hour I rolled out the strands and braided them. That sounds easy doesn’t it. Not for me. Had to ask Sue not to talk to me and the cat slunk off and hid. I braided with one hand on the strands and a finger of the other hand on the instructions …

Eventually proved the dough on a floured baking sheet. It proved a lot fast than I expected and was oven-ready within 2½ hours.

Egg-washed before the bake and a couple of time during the bake.

In the Pico, top 250C, bottom 220C, 10 minutes steam. After 15 minutes reduced top heat to 240C. 40 minutes total.

In a convection oven I would have baked 210C for 15 minutes, reducing to 180C. 40 minutes total.

Yes, the bread was excellent, but I was most impressed with my braid …

… but I know next time I do it, it’ll still be one hand on the dough and one on the page.