When I was in high school, I had the most wonderful English teacher (that’s you, Mr. Scanlon!) who quoted Emerson, roughly, saying that we all contradict ourselves.
I often feel like I am the epitome of contradiction where eating and cooking is concerned. I strive to keep a mostly vegetarian diet, but sometimes I can’t help it. I relish making something fatty and delicious using red meat. And my Pastrami Sandwich Challah fits this bill precisely.
Stuffing my challah with meat all began with my famous challah dogs (stay tuned for that recipe!). But recently I had a hankering to stuff my challah with something else. Ground beef? Seemed messy. Chicken? So dry. But then I thought of the North American classic deli roll—a dish I did not grow up with, and which I find both disgusting and delicious. And the idea for this crazy new challah began to take shape.
If you have a local butcher as an option, please please please go get freshly sliced pastrami. Thin is best—a thick-cut pastrami will not result in the same consistency.
Make sure not to spread the Russian dressing on too thick, or you could end up with a leaky challah. I know that sounds delicious, but it might not make for such a pretty-looking challah.
Let us know if you try this. I’d love to hear modifications!
5 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
½ Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp onion powder
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 eggs plus one egg yolk
1/8-1/4 lb thinly sliced pastrami
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp mayo
Dried minced onion
Thick sea salt (optional)
Proof yeast by placing yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water in a small bowl. Stir gently just once or twice. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, onion powder and 1/2 cup sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil. Mix thoroughly.
Add another cup of flour and 2 eggs until smooth (save extra egg yolk for later). Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 1/2 cups flour and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise 3-4 hours.
After dough has risen, roll out dough using a rolling pin until it is about ½ inch thick. Mix ketchup and mayo in a small bowl and spread a thin layer all over the dough.
Lay pastrami down in a single layer overlapping pieces only slightly.
Working quickly, start rolling up the dough towards you. Try and keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the end when you finish.
Create a pinwheel shaped-challah by snaking the dough around and around in a circle around itself. When finished, tuck the end under the challah neatly and pinch lightly. This doesn't have to be perfect - remember, as long as it tastes good, almost no one will care what it looks like.
Allow challah to rise another hour. This extra rise will ensure fluffy challah.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush challah with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with poppy seeds, dried onion and a touch of thick sea salt (optional). Bake challah for 27-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.