Friday, September 21, 2012

Rosh Hashanah 5773 | Making the Perfect Round Spiral Challah

I know, I know, Rosh Hashanah has passed, but I still put it in this title.  In our family, we make round-shaped challot all the way through Shabbat Shuvah, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah.  Personally, I think that the braided round (tutorial from last year) is really the loveliest of round challah shapes, and the Croatian star is one my most commonly hit pages here.  However, for certain recipes, the simple spiral challah is the perfect shape.

The round spiral is known by a few names, apparently.  I was surprised to read it referred to as a "turban challah," which to me brings up all sorts of funny visions of Maimonides (Rambam, Moshe ben Maimon, however you want to to call him).

Another name for the spiral is a Faigele which is Yiddish for "little bird." This website gives a good description for this name...
According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the New Year's spiral is a shape with a Ukrainian origin, originally a bird shape with the center of the spiral culminating in a bird's head: "The bird's head symbolizes the phrase in Isaiah 31:5 'As birds hovering, so will the Lord of Hosts protect Jerusalem'" — which helps to explain why this spiral shape would be called a faigele, "little bird" in Yiddish.
Regardless of what you call it, it's lovely.  The following technique is a great way to make a really nice, smooth round challah shape.  It works equally for plain challah and for stuffed challah, so I've given you a set of pictures from both methods.

Start out with your dough on a flour surface.  With a rolling pin, roll the dough out smoothly and flat into a long, oblong rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Next, coil up the challah, trying to keep as many of the bubbles out as possible. The resulting strand should be about the size you would normally use to braid challah.
spiral05 spiral06
For a stuffed apple challah (or any filling), the process is the same, however you add your apples! I keep my apple pieces very small, flour them, and keep a consistent amount throughout the coil, which helps prevent air pockets. Also, keep them away about an inch or two from the ends to get a good seal.
spiral02 spiral03
Once you have your long strand, use your palms to length it if desired. When coiling, start by making the small central point and then switch to bring the long tail around the center (I learned this from an elderly woman at my synagogue... I'm not sure quite why, but it seems to make a more successful shape.)
If you like your round challah to be tall, keep the strands nice and tight together with each other. The result will be that, as the challah bakes, the center will be pushed up for a nice tall loaf.
Conversely, if you want your challah to be flatter, try to keep a bit of air in between the coils. The key is just a tiny bit otherwise your challah won't fuse enough. I always try to do this method, because I like my round challot flatter. Below is my crowning achievement in round challot... no other loaf has been quite as pretty as this one.  And perhaps that is the key... accepting that your challot are beautiful no matter what, even if they're a little extra tall like the one above.
Wishing you a Shabbat of rest and of peace and a very meaningful fast this Yom Kippur. From our bayit to yours.


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