I’ve never heard of challah before I started this food blog. My knowledge of bread was sandwich bread, french/po’ boy bread (of course), and dinner rolls.
Around the holidays, I remember reading about this bread on many blogs, and thought it looked divine. Heck, what am I saying, MOST breads to me look divine. I’m a carb lover, that’s for sure!
I actually didn’t plan on making this. I wanted to purchase this bread at a store, because my blogging friend sent me a recipe for some killer looking french toast, and I wanted to surprise my husband/sister (who came to visit) with a nice Sunday breakfast. (Post to come on this fantastic french toast soon!) However, I live near a Target and a Wal-Mart. I don’t think they know what challah is…it wasn’t there. It was too late to go across town to the swanky part of town to check Whole Foods, too. So, I had to crank out the mixer, locate the yeast in my pantry and make this bread happen. My craving for french toast was too strong to ignore.
So, at 10:30 on a Saturday evening, I made this dough. I wanted to halve it, because I’m fairly positive my waistline would be disappointed after a snack fest involving the second loaf. The dough was rising while my husband, sister and I watched Avatar. Avatar and dough proofing: perfect Saturday, eh?
Anyway, the dough really didn’t rise as much as the recipe made it sound. Perhaps directly halving yeast is a no-no? Eh, regardless, this bread was awesome! The only issue I had was making a pretty braid, but I’m not sweating over it.
Source: Smitten Kitchen
Makes 2 loaves
- 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
- 5 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
- Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid–it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done.)
- Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
- At this point, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.
- Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.
- If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
- Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on a rack.
Note: Any of the three risings can be done in the fridge for a few hours, for more deeply-developed flavor. When you’re ready to work with it again, bring it back to room temperature before moving onto the next step.