There are few things I lovemore than bad puns. Despite challah’s overuse in such capacities, I couldn’t help myself when titling this post. Challah was one of the first breads I made when I started branching out from pizza dough a few years ago. The recipe seemed easy to follow and the bread itself was very familiar to me. Prior to this I had only actually made it once (July 2011), partially because I like to try out different recipes on a regular basis.
My fiance and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary a few weeks ago and I wanted to make a few special things for breakfast and lunch. I decided upon stuffed apple cinnamon french toast (post to come next week) for breakfast, which provided me the opportunity to make challah once again.
One of the things I like about challah, partly due to the fact that it is an egg bread, is that it is dense (but not too much) while also having a smooth texture. It works well in a variety of ways, whether eaten fresh, toasted, or used in something like french toast. In addition, it can very easily take on additional flavors based on what else you add (raisins, figs, other dried fruits). Lastly, the variety of ways in which you can braid and shape it give you some choice over how your final product looks.
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups AP flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
For this challah I went with a simple four-strand braided loaf. Start out by mixing all of your ingredients together and kneading (by hand or machine) until you have a soft, smooth dough. It will look and feel like a more dense pastry dough. Let the dough rise for 2 hours, or until is has doubled in size.
Transfer the dough to a work surface. You should not need to add extra flour, and if you find the dough is difficult to work with lightly oil/grease your surface. Divide the dough into four pieces, and shape each into a log. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes roll each log into a 15 inch rope. If the dough won’t hold it’s length and keeps shrinking back, just let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Once each has reached 15 inches, cover and let rest another 10 minutes. After, roll each out further to 20 inches.
To begin braiding, lay the strands next to each other (with some space in between) and pinch the ends on one side together. Take the strand closest to you and place it over the two adjoining ropes. Holding on to that same rope, move it back under the rope next to it (bringing it back closer to you. Spread out the ropes again. What was the first rope closest to you should now be the second.
Repeat this process, but instead of starting with the strand closest to you, start with the one farthest away. Bring it towards you over the two adjoining strands, and then back under the one closest to it.
Continue this braiding process, each time alternating what side you begin with. When you’ve braided the whole loaf just punch together the loose ends and tuck them underneath the end of the loaf.
Gently transfer the loaf to a parchment lined baking sheet, and let rise (covered) for 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 375° and just before putting it in the oven brush the eggwash over the loaf.
Bake for 20 minutes in the oven. Tent the loaf loosely with aluminum foil and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.
My oven runs a bit hot and I took mine out after 37 minutes total, and even then it was a bit drier than I would like. So know your oven and keep a close eye on it as the time increases.
Let cool for 2 hours. The bread will keep at room temperature for about a week, and after 2 days is best used for toast.
Recipe and braiding instructions courtesy of King Arthur Flour