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Challah

Erez Komarovsky

Lesson time 37 min

Bake two of Erez’s signature stuffed challah breads, one woven with fennel & sage blossoms, the other stuffed with savory Kashkaval cheese and garlic confit. These loaves are true centerpiece stunners.

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matbuchamasbucha- This is the fun part. Getting into the garden, picking the flowers for the challah, picking the herbs for everything we use. This is why I live off the land. And 15. Okay, we’ve got fresh eggs. Today, we’re going to do challah. We’re going to do regular challah and stuffed challah, with tons of hyssop and oregano branches. And we’re going to decorate the challah with flowers that I took from the garden. First, we have to do the dough. The dough calls for one kilogram of flour that you’re going to put in the mixer. Then we’re going to use water, just tap water, because it’s pretty cold here. Okay, 500 grams of water, exactly so. We’re going to use 170 grams of this beautiful cold pressed sunflower seeds oil. My grandfather came from the Ukraine, and in the Ukraine, which is the biggest grower of sunflowers in all of the area, they use the sunflower oil like we use, in the Middle East, olive oil. So it’s a very, very important thing, when you do a traditional challah, to use the right fat. Okay, this sunflower seed oil into the mixer. It’s such a beautiful and simple dough that you are going to be dead, how simple it is. Now one egg. And two egg yolks. Let’s see if you have twins here. Why yes, we do have twins, okay. The younger chickens, they give twins. Mine are very fertile. And now we take sugar, around 70 grams of cane sugar, raw sugar. And now, let’s have some yeast, because it’s not going to work without the yeast. We’re using fresh yeast. – [Camera Operator] Yeast. – Yeast. – Yeast. This is a lovely yeast, and we’re going to use 30 grams of it. Going to take some flour put the yeast inside and just rub it in, so they won’t be any big chunks of it, and that’s it. We are starting on low speed, and off it goes. It’s interesting how challah became something that you cannot do Friday night without it. It became 100% in the canon. It’s unlike more complicated doughs. Usually in regular doughs, we add the fat at the end of the kneading, because we don’t want the fat to connect with the gluten. Here, we don’t mind it because we don’t need big holes in the dough. And so it will allow you to have soft dough, perfect for eating sauces. And we say, chopped liver, of course. I love chopped liver. Okay, so I will need a little more flour. This is challah flour, that we have here in Israel. You can use, in the States, bread flour. The flexibility of this dough allows you to open the braids without them shrinking again. But a good bread dough will do just the same. And now we’re going to add the salt. And we are changing into a slightly faster kneading. And I give it another three or four minutes. Now I’m going to take it off the hook. And this is the dough. Now we’re going to transfer it to a bowl to rise. I’m going to oil the bowl with this unfiltered sunflower seed oil. It gives a lot of flavor, because it’s like eating roasted black sunflower seeds. It’s the same smell, it’s amazing. And now we’re going to transfer the whole dough into the bowl. And I’m going to coat it, like this, with the oil, so it won’t stick to the bowl. And I’m going to flip it over. So the clean part, the smooth part will be on top now. Now I’m going to put a plastic bag. I never use Saran Wrap, because I don’t want to close the oxygen. One thing that happens, temperature is rising, especially on the bottom of the dough, because it’s enclosed in there. So we need the plastic to be smooth like this, and that’s enough. And now it’s going to sit here and rise slowly, room temperature for 45 minutes. In the meantime, we’re going to do matbucha, because it’s gorgeous to eat matbucha with the challah bread. Matbucha, which comes from North Africa, actually from Morocco. It’s a very, very hot tomato sauce. You have to see the smoke comes out of your ears when you eat it, and then it’s good. So let’s start, we’ll take the plum tomatoes. They also are called Roma tomatoes. Very ripe, okay, extremely ripe. When they’re sweet already, with tons of sugar content. And we are going to take garlics, tons of garlics, and chilli peppers. And we’re going to go this beautiful Sudanea. Which, is Sudanese dry peppers, and this is star anise. And we’re going to use sweet paprika, okay? And we’re going to use Shatta peppers, also hot, but not as hot as these. First, I have to peel the garlics. The freshest the garlic are, the better they are. So don’t go to the freezer section in your supermarket and buy these frozen ones in order to save time. It’s a crime against humanity. And so now I’m going to peel it. Slowly, you peel them off. We’re going to use 15 to 20 garlic cloves. If you do it in the springtime, while you have fresh garlic, green garlic, it’s even better, much better, even. And now I’m going to cook it and warm the pan. And let’s start cutting the tomatoes. I do not peel my tomatoes. It’s crazy to peel the tomatoes for matbucha. I just cut the tomatoes into cubes. Okay, so now I’m going to take all those tomatoes that I got, and put them in the pan. Now I’m going to add tons of olive oil, around one and 1/2 cups of olive oil. Olive oil that is not too strong, so it won’t be bitter. Now I’m going to cut the red chili pepper. Then I add it. And then I add five of the Sudanea and three, four of the Shatta and one, two, three star anise. And I’m going to throw it in, but I’m going to just break it a little bit, so it releases the flavor into the sauce. And now I’m going to add salt. We put a lot of garlic, all those garlic cloves that we peeled, on top. And now you see the flame is very high, and I mix it. Star anise is not in the tradition, but I found that it gives a lovely twist to the matbucha. And now it will bubble and boil and reduces to a very, very thick sauce. It’s going to take around two hours to make it. We are going to reduce the flame and let it be. Already, there is the smell. And now I’m going to put some paprika. I used sweet, but you can use also hot paprika. It depends on how hot your sauce is. Let’s let it be. While the matbucha is cooking I’m going to fold the dough of the challah bread we did. So what is folding the dough, and why do we need to do it? It’s very simple. You take the dough outside. You put it on your board, and you do this. One, two, three, four, folded the dough, back inside the bowl and back with the plastic wrap. Why do we do it? We do it so we’ll have a better structure for the final bread, okay, it will be fluffier and stronger. So let’s give it another 45 minutes. And in the meantime, we are going to do garlic confit. Garlic confit is something that I think it’s important to have in every kitchen. In the springtime where all the fresh garlics come, and they are fresh and beautiful, and the odour is unbelievable. I have tons of garlics from the garden, and I have to keep them somehow. I don’t want to dry them. So what I do is that I just cook them in olive oil slowly. And I do like a confiture, confit of garlic, okay. You can do confit of tomatoes, confit of small eggplants, confit of everything, okay? Let’s start by peeling the garlic. Going to put all the garlic cloves inside, and we are going to pour olive oil from last year. It is more relaxed. Till the oil covers all the garlics. Then we put one branch of thyme. And we put it on he smallest flame, the smallest flame. So here we go. This confit should not be boiled, only small bubbles. Don’t boil it, because if you boil the olive oil, it’s going to have a bitter aftertaste, and it’s going to be horrible. And it will take us around 30 minutes to 35 minutes. And so I’m adding the dry chili pepper over here. If you live in the States and you can get poblano, poblano will be excellent here, to give a little smokiness to it. But regular dried pepper would be also, hot pepper. Immerse it into the oil and that’s it. Let’s mix our matbucha. I feel that I need another chili. So this one, I’m just putting like this. So we keep producing the matbucha. So now let’s fold again the dough. Don’t worry, it’s not a lot of work. You just fold it, it’s 20 seconds. One, two. One, two. And that’s it, we did kind of envelope. There is a beautiful structure to it. It’s shiny. The gluten is developed very well, and it doesn’t stick. I think we’re going to have very nice challah. Let’s keep it here. Let’s put this on the back to rise for another 45 minutes, and let’s mix our matbucha. Look, the color and the smell. It’s started to concentrate, and in a moment, the garlic cloves will melt into the sauce. It’s important to work with a wood spoon and to scratch the bottom so nothing will be burned. Okay, we are going to divide the dough right now. Look how nice it is. Let’s take a tray. Put some flour in it. And we’ll divide the dough into six parts. This will make us two challah. We’re going to make this kind of shape, oval shape, and put it into the tray. We’re going to let them sit for 30 minutes, so they will be relaxed. And we’re going to be able to open them, in order to braid them later on. Okay, so, there it is. You see what I’m doing, folding it on itself. It will give more power for the challah later on. Okay, so I can put some flour, here it is. And I’m closing it up with plastic wrap, and we’re going to let it be for 30 minutes. So let’s let it be here. The matbucha is ready. Okay, matbucha is ready. It’s very thick, and the color is good. Let me check the flavor, if we need to add a little salt. Wow. Oh! Tiny bit, tiny bit of salt. Wow, ready. Let’s let it be, to cool down a little bit, and you see, the garlic confit is ready, and we’re going to turn it off. And we’re going to put it into a colander, just to separate the garlic from the oil. But keep the oil, because the oil of this garlic confit is the best, and you can use it for cheese, you can use it for chicken, you can use it for salads. It’s gorgeous, so keep it, don’t waste it. So let’s transfer. I’m going to put it also here. Let it come back to room temperature, because we cannot stuff our challah dough with warm garlic cloves, it will destroy the dough. Let’s put it into the freezer for 20 minutes, it will be okay. Okay, so this is already room temperature. This is for the dough, and this is the garlic confit. It can be kept for a year, for two years. Let’s put it over here so it won’t interfere with what we are going to do now, which is the challah. We’re going to start with doing the natural challah. So we’ll use three of them. Now we’re going to fold the dough on itself. And I’m making cylinders. You see that I’m doing it not on a floured surface, unless it does stick to the surface, but it won’t stick if you follow my orders. And you just make it a long baguette kind of thing, that is very pointy on the outside. And now we’re going to do flowers. Since it’s spring, I decided that I’m going to decorate my challah breads with flowers, because I love flowers, because I’m gay, and because I think it’s beautiful. And also it gives gorgeous flavor. So let’s do. The braid is very simple. We bring the outside inside. Okay. And now let’s put some fennel blossoms. This will give a lot of flavor. If you don’t have a fennel flower, you can use sesame seeds. You can use sage leaves, you can use tarragon leaves, you can use roses. Now I got some zucchini flower, okay. So I will add zucchini flour. And you see, I’m not gentle with the dough, nothing will happen to it. I’m just sticking the flower with my finger into the dough. And then I have these beautiful sage blossoms. It’s all edible, I wouldn’t suggest to put poisonous flowers unless you give it to your mother-in-law. And this can be a beautiful solution. And now let’s transfer it into parchment. And put it here. Second challah we do is the stuffed garlic confit and kashkaval cheese. Kashkaval is a kind of Turkish cheese, made out of sheep cheese. And it’s sharp. If you don’t have, you can use pecorino, parmigiano, Grana Padano, you can use any cheese you like. What we do now is slightly different than with the regular challah. We just open it with your fingers, let’s put it here. Into something like 30 centimeters long and 10 centimeters wide. But don’t measure. Don’t have to measure, just the idea will be to stuff it now. If it sticks to the surface, you can put some flour. Okay, now we have three rectangles that we’re going to stuff. So we have the garlic confit, but we have also the cheese. So we need the cheese. So let’s grate. This is a lovely, lovely kashkaval cheese, let’s taste it. Mmm, wow. Sweet. I need 300, 400 grams, which is a lot of cheese. Okay, now we have the cheese, and now we’re going to stuff the dough. So we put some garlic clove along the dough that we opened. And now we’ve got to put the cheese. Generously. Be generous, so life will be generous to you, also, as my grandmother used to say. Okay, now I’m taking some hyssop. Or oregano, this is hyssop from my garden, also known as za’atar. You separate the leaves from the stem, because the stem is bitter, so we don’t use the stem. If you don’t have za’atar, use oregano or marjoram. So now, we’re closing it. Using one finger to put the stuffing in, and folding it with the other hand, okay? Don’t worry about the stuff that was left outside, because we are going to put it on top of the challah later on. And we are stitching it, and we are making it a little longer. We continue to do it with the other one. Okay, so we’re stitching it again and folding it. Make it longer, make it longer. Very nice, we are moving into the third one. It does look complicated, but it’s very simple. We actually want them to be not even. We want them to look like a human did it and not machine. And now we’re going to braid it. We’re taking some za’atar or oregano branches, and we put it inside. Now we’re going to braid it. Slowly, without tearing it. So there is a lot of hyssop in here, and we’re going to transfer it to that baking sheet. Now we can put some cheese on top. Look what we did. Lovely. This is called the final rise. Let’s keep it for an hour and a half, room temperature. The ovens are heating up for 170 degrees Celsius. While warming the oven, we’re warming a baking stone or a simple baking sheet in the lower part of the oven. Because once we are going to put it in the oven, we’re going to transfer the challah from the cold tray here into the warm tray to imitate a real stone oven. Wow, look at those gorgeous challah breads! The way they more than doubled their size. And now, we’re going to transfer them to the warm tray. So we’re going to cut the baking paper in the middle, so it will be easier for us. And we’re going to take the warm tray from the oven. Put it here. Carefully, after all this work, you don’t want to destroy them. And now you’re going to take an egg. Dilute it with a little water and tiny bit of salt. Just brush it. This will give it a nice shine. Don’t brush the flowers and the spices. And that’s it. Now, we’re going to put it into the oven immediately. We need some water for the humidity in the oven. We put it here and now we’ll take the warm tray, and we’re going to put it into the oven, lower third, okay. Pour some water and close it. Make it into 30 minutes. The water gives it humidity, and think about us when we go to a jacuzzi. All our muscles are relaxing and we can, we can grow, okay. This is what happens to the bread in the oven with humidity. Also, the humidity with the gluten on top of the bread gives it a little shine, beautiful shine, for the eggs, also. Okay, perfect. Why, why. Why, why, look at those beauties! Wow, this is with the cheese and the hyssop, and this is with all the flowers. And you can eat the fennel. And now let’s take the matbucha. Okay, so let’s put all the matbucha, look. Okay, and now let’s bring the plate, because I like to plate my challah in big plates. And to serve them, like they will serve food. Look how gorgeous they are. Let’s put some hyssop. This will be the hyssop. Lovely, and the other one. And we’ll do all the flowers of the season inside. And the matbucha, wow. Wow. Mmm. Wow, mmm.

About the Instructor

Renowned chef, baker, and cookbook author celebrated as the “Godfather” of modern Israeli cuisine, Erez Komarovsky takes viewers on a journey to discover the roots of his Middle Eastern cuisine. Starting from the bustling markets of Tel Aviv, Israel to his blissful home in the North Galilee, Erez teaches viewers how to bake his “flowering” Challah and Pita breads, plus his signature dishes including Lamb Kebabs, Hummus Mezze with Falafel, Harissa Chicken, Fish Crudo and more.

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