Where I grew up, in Bayswater London W2, there used to be a bakery called Grodzinski and we would buy our bread there. I’d be fascinated – what child wouldn’t be – by the slicer, that they fed your whole loaves into if you asked for it to be sliced.
Sometimes, we would buy chollah bread. I loved its eggy sweetness and my favourite filling for it would be mortadella. Some years later, when I was telling my partner, he pointed out that perhaps using pork in a traditional Jewish bread wasn’t the BEST thing I could have done. (Sorry.)
Anyway. A few years ago, I attempted to recreate this wonder bread at home and I was amazed at how well it worked. This is an amalgamation of recipes that I found and it works for me, I’m not sure how authentic it is (be interested to know). It makes one good loaf. I don’t attempt to knot it or shape it into anything fancy. A Jewish friend of mine who regularly bakes says that, in her opinion, the dough is either dry enough to shape, but that results in a dry bread, or too wet to shape, but this results in a tastier bread. This was also my experience. So I always go for a higher hydration loaf in a simple boule shape. Be warned: it’s the sort of bread you can’t stop eating. Any that you miraculously have left over and goes stale (you won’t have any) you can make into French toast.
420g white flour – plain gives a better texture but you can also use strong white
7g of dried yeast
60g caster sugar
240ml of water, warm
a teaspoon of salt
60ml of olive oil or oil of choice (you could also use melted butter)
You need an extra egg to glaze with, or milk. And poppy/sesame seeds if you like to sprinkle atop.
Mix a heaped teaspoon of the measured out sugar, with the yeast, into the warm water. Mix it up well and leave it to froth up. This takes about 15 or so minutes in my kitchen.
Mix the remaining sugar with the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix with a fork. When the yeast/water/sugar mixture has become nice and bubbled up, add this to the flour mixture and mix together using a fork until you get a sticky dough. Now add the egg and oil and mix it all together. Leave it for ten minutes.
Now tip it out onto an oiled surface and knead it very gently. Cover with a bowl and leave it for ten minutes. Repeat this twice more. The dough should be fairly smooth by now. When you have kneaded it gently for the third and final time, put it into an oiled bowl and cover with a cloth in for two or so hours.
Heat the oven to 200C, take your dough out knead gently and shape into the form you want it to be (as I said, a boule is really the only thing I can do with it) and place it on the baking tray you’ll want to bake it on. Leave for a final 20-30 minutes to rest.
Before it goes into the oven, brush it gently with beaten egg/milk and sprinkle with seeds if you so wish. Bake it for 20-30 minutes and leave to rest until completely cold before cutting it. (Yeah right.)