Rye bread challah

I grew up on rye bread, it was the bread that every deli sandwich came on, and the caraway scent is one I closely associated with my Eastern European roots. I don’t actually know how much rye flour was in that bread, perhaps it should have been called white bread with a few caraway seeds on top – but that does sound like a mouth full!

This challah on the other hand uses wholemeal flour, rye flour, and caraway seeds! The richness of this challah doesn’t come from eggs or oil, but rather from the nuttiness of the whole flours, the sweetness of the treacle, and the aroma of the caraway.

Serve it alongside herring, smoked salmon, and hard-boiled eggs and you have just recreated an old-world Ashkenazi banquet.

  • 875g (7 ⅓ cups) wholemeal flour
  • 560g (4 ⅔ cups) rye flour
  • 290g (2 ⅓ cups) strong white flour
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1.2 liters (5 and a bit cups) warm water
  • 30g (3 ½ tablespoons) dried yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 75g (4 tablespoons) treacle (or molasses)
  1. Place the flours and salt in a very large bowl, set aside ½ a tablespoon of caraway seeds, and add the remainder to the bowl with the flours and salt, mix well.
  2. Place a quarter of the water into a small bowl or measuring jug, add the dried yeast and pinch of sugar, mix, and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture add the yeast mixture along with the treacle (molasses) and nearly all the water, reserving about ¼ cup. Using your hands gradually incorporate the dough into the liquid ingredients, until your dough comes together, add more water if necessary.
  4. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly graded bowl, cover, and let rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
  5. If separating challah now is the time to do so. Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.
  6. Place the risen dough on a clean surface and punch out the air, divide the dough into small pieces, I usually prepare to work with dough that is between 130-170g each. Once all the dough is divided, roll out into long thin ropes about 35-38cm (14-15 inches) long, and plait, as desired
  7. Place on a baking tray lined with paper at least 5cm (2 inches) apart, cover, and let it rise again, about 30-45 minutes, until puffy.
  8. Heat oven to 200℃ (400℉)
  9. Brush the risen loaves with water and sprinkle with reserved caraway seeds. Bake the challahs for 30-40 minutes, until the sound hollow when tapped underneath, cool before serving or storing

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