Baking bread is fun. But woe be to the aspirational baker who doesn’t realize that it takes all day. Next time we fork over a mere $4 for a loaf of fresh bread, we will consider it a job well done.
However, when you have time to kill, baking your own bread can be totally rewarding. Challah is a traditional Jewish braided loaf – soft and fluffy, but has a certain density due to the use of eggs in the dough.
Symbolic of the manna sent from heaven to the wandering Israelites, there is much ritual associated with Challah. Usually being braided from six strands and loaves being served two at a time, even the cutting of the Challah is an important action that requires care. Needless to say, we are Challah beginners and didn’t quite follow protocol…three braids and one loaf was enough for us!
Here is our starter Challah recipe from the blog The Knead for Bread:
|Bread flour||4 1/2 cups|
|Instant yeast||1 1/2 teaspoons|
|Water (lukewarm)||1 cup|
In a bowl combine the water, eggs, honey and oil together. Whisk till all the liquid ingredients are well mixed. Pour mixture into a large bowl. Add in about two cups of the bread flour and the yeast and salt. Beat together till smooth and very well mixed. Allow to rest for 15 minutes uncovered. After 15 minutes have passed continue to add the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time. Once the dough becomes firm enough to work with your hands. Pour out onto a flat surface and knead for 10 minute till the dough becomes soft and elastic. You may need more flour, thats OK just add it 1 heaping tablespoon at a time till the dough is workable without sticking to your hands. But, not to dry either. Like I always say if your not to sure it’s better to be on the sticky side rather then the dry side. After the dough has been kneaded place into a greased bowl and turn dough over to lightly coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise till double in bulk. This will take an hour to an hour and a half.
After dough has risen place onto a flat surface and cut into three equal parts. I like to use a scale to weigh the dough so the braid will look even after cooking. For my dough each piece weighed about 13 oz. your may be slightly different depending on the amount of flour needed. Roll out each piece of dough into a 15 inch rope. Now, connect the three pieces of dough at one end. Start to braid the dough starting from the right side. Once the dough has been braided pinch the ends and tuck them under the braid to make a clean and stunning braid. Place the braid onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Take the egg wights that you have left over from the two egg yolks. Using a wire whisk beat the egg white till they become foamy. Using just the foam brush the Challah bread till all the dough has some of the egg wash. Set the remaining egg wash aside because you will need to do this again before baking. Cover the braid with plastic wrap and allow to rise till double in bulk about an hour to a hour and a half.
After the dough has risen remove the plastic wrap and whisk the remaining egg wash again and brush the foam on the braid again. Sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds and place into a pre heated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes then rotate the bread and turn the heat down to 375F bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the loaf is deliciously browned. Cool on a wire rack.
Don’t forget to share with friends! Enjoy!