I believe that if you look up the phrase “Indian food” in the dictionary, it should say “See ‘foods that will never come out the same when made at home’”. The same applies to Masala Challah. It’s doubtful I will ever be able to match what you will find at the traditional Kosher Jewish-Indian bakeries in the Pico-Robertson area.
Masala Spices used in today's challah recipe
Masala, a term describing a mixture of spices used in South-Asian cuisines, could actually indicate any number of flavors. You may find masala in the form of a powder or paste, and masalas tend to lose quality and flavor when not fresh.
The masala chosen for this experiment (right), is a Tandoori variety, intended for chicken baked in a clay tandoori oven. Not shown is the use-by date, which, if this packaging had one, would have probably been some time in 2009. Lofty dreams of Tandoori chicken never having come to fruition, this particular packet of exotic spices will serve a greater good — week 27 of 52 of challah flavor experimentation.
One tablespoon + one teaspoon of the masala spice was added to the standard five-pound challah recipe prior to the flour addition. The kitchen quickly filled with the mild yet distinct aroma of the spices that many will identify as uniquely Indian. Even though the amount of spice was minimal, the dough turned a bright orange — most likely the result of the paprika, which, to date, has never been used in an Adventures in Challah recipe.
Masala Challahs in the traditional 6-braid style
The dough rose and braided exactly as expected. As you can see by the image to the right, six-braided challahs have made a triumphant return! Round braids had been the norm for quite some time, but realizing that the only way to be taken seriously in the experimental-challah-baking arena is to perfect the standard braids, I have decided that each week I will practice the horizontal six-braid that we all know and love.
The final product was better than expected. The challah has a great smell and very mild taste. There is a hint of heat on the back end, but nothing overpowering. Perhaps the next time I will add a little bit more masala spice, or purchase a new package to see if the freshness makes a difference.
This was a very simple variation on the traditional challah recipe — something I would recommend you to try with your favorite spice mixture!