Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jewish Czech Christmas Bread

This bread comes from Daniel Leaders book Local Bread. This book happens to have a fairly extensive errata, but being a trusting soul, I keep forgetting to look into it. Every time that I make this bread I have to add so much extra flour. This time I figured that with the addition of a significant amount of whole wheat flour it would be much less of an issue. Guess again! 

This bread is one of my favorites. At least one of my favorites from Leader's books. It is full of sweetness from the raisins, full of lightness from the milk and full of richness from the two egg yolks. It has all the things that make a good challah, but there is something wrong with the percentages. With 240 grams of milk to 300 grams of flour, I feel that it is over hydrated. I estimate that I added about 150 grams of flour to the bread. 

This bread is mixed for about four minutes and then the raisins are added. I decided to add hydrated raisins to keep them from drying out. With all of the extra flour that I added, I thought that it would be fine. I was wrong. I had to add at least another 50-75 grams of flour to get the bread back to the consistency that I needed. At that point the bread had been mixing for about ten minutes. I don't like to mix a bread this much because I feel that it over-works the gluten. Leader instructs to mix on fourth speed for about 7 minutes, but I think this is crazy. I also replaced the milk in this formula with vanilla soy milk. I have done this in the past, but with more than 40% of the flour in this bread coming from freshly ground whole wheat flour, I had too many variables at work. 

I also increased the amounts of raisins in this bread, because nothing beats fruity goodness except for one thing: More Fruity Goodness! 

When I scaled this bread into pieces, I noticed that it was not perfectly smooth, even though it had improved gluten development since the first fold which took place 20 minutes earlier. I knew that there were problems, but I had no choice but to shape, proof and bake this bread as is. I needed to get this bread done because my sister Gabrielle and her boyfriend Darren were joining us for Shabbat dinner. The dough was a bit sticky but I shaped it the best that I could. I baked the bread at 350 for close to 30 minutes. Because the bread was fairly dense, it took a good amount of time to bake. I was very careful to watch the coloration as it baked, making sure that it did not burn. I lightly sprinkled vanilla sugar over the loaves after brushing them with egg wash to give them a tiny bit more sweetness.

Over all, the breads were a little dense, and I think that I am going to have to really re-figure out the hydration levels of this bread and how it best needs to be baked. It will take some trial and error, but I know that strong results are possible. This recipe certainly has a strong backbone for a future great recipe.

Bake On
-DW, The Rye King


  1. Very annoying if you have to add a lot of flour to the final dough. But the breads look very nice.
    I never made that particular bread from "Local Breads", but I emailed Leader's wife once about a serious translation error in another formula, translating "Kümmel" (caraway) into "cumin" (German: "Kreuzkümmel") She was very nice, and appreciative.
    Do you have the errata list? Otherwise I can give it to you.
    I made the French Walnut Bread, and it turned out quite nice.

    1. I have the errata saved on my computer, but I did not check it for this one! Whoops!

  2. The worst case I ever had was making a Bran Vinegar Bread from Jan Hedh's Swedish Breads & Pastries: 250 g bran instead of 25 g. That bread was dense as a brick!

    1. its the smaller things in life that really make the difference! Isn't it?