Last Friday at 5am I awoke to a moment of clarity: challah-shaped pretzels. Or pretzel-style challahs, if you will. What could be a more perfect way to start Shabbat than a hot pretzel straight from the oven?
I tested my theory and it was a success (if I do say so myself).
I adapted the kitchn’s recipe for soft pretzels. My recipe makes approximately five small braided challahs, so you will likely want to double the recipe. You can also make larger challahs by rolling thicker and longer ropes, but keep in mind that you will need to be able to manoeuvre the challahs in and out of the water bath. You will also need to adjust the baking time accordingly.
For added authenticity, serve the challahs with shot glasses of mustard. L’chaim!
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup baking soda
1 tablespoon molasses or dark brown sugar
Coarse sea salt
1. Combine the warm water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand for a few minutes, then stir to dissolve yeast. Add the flour and salt. Mix on a low speed using a dough hook attachment or wooden spoon to combine.
2. Knead the dough by using a dough hook at a low speed for 5 minutes or by hand on the counter top for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough is ready when it is able to form a ball shape and is only slightly sticky. If your dough is too sticky, add an additional tablespoon of flour and mix until combined.
3. Coat a large, clean bowl with oil and put the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour.
4. To make braided challahs: Pinch off three golf-ball portions of dough. Roll each piece of dough between your hands to form three ropes. Lay down the ropes so the tips of each of the strands are stacked on each other and the tails are fanned out. Pinch the tips together and then braid the strands together. When there is no more dough to braid, pinch the tails of the ropes together.
To make snail-shaped challahs: Pinch off an egg-size amount of dough. Roll the dough between your hands to form a rope. Shape the dough into a spiral, starting from the base and winding up.
5. Place the challahs on parchment paper, cover the challahs loosely and leave to rise for 20-30 minutes.
6. While the challahs are rising, pour 8 cups of water into a wide pot and bring to a rapid simmer. Add the molasses and baking soda. The baking soda will foam up.
7. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius).
8. Lower one or two challahs into the pot. Use a slotted spoon to flip the challahs after thirty seconds. After a further thirty seconds, remove the challahs from the pot and place them on a tray lined with baking paper.
9 Sprinkle coarse salt over the challahs and place them into the oven. Bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes, until the challahs are deep brown. Rotate the tray after 8 minutes of baking.
10. Place baked challahs on a cooling rack.
11. Serve while challahs are warm. To freeze, wait until challahs have cooled and place in an airtight container. Once thawed, reheat in an oven before serving.
(Image by the author)