We LOVE bread in my family. I am always looking for new ones to try. While browsing my facebook news feed I saw a post for a lovely challah bread. The baker inside me was inspired to make this beautiful bread, so I took off to my favorite bread baking site, King Arthur Flour, and sure enough, they have a lovely Classic Challah bread recipe. I had received some Red Star Platinum yeast as a freebie a month or two ago, and had been saving it for a sweeter bread, and decided to give it a go. My husband saw it as I was putting it in the oven, and was so excited, he is a huge fan of challah bread, and couldn't believe I was giving making it a try. That made me very happy to see him so enthusiastic about it. Now the pressure for it to turn out was really on though :)
This dough was very stiff, even though I measured everything by weight, and in hindsight I should have added a tad bit more water probably. It was around 72 degrees F. today in my house, and after 3 hours it hadn't really risen at all. I warmed up the oven, then put it in there and let it rise another 45 minutes, and it finally got puffy. probably not doubled, but enough. I proceeded with the recipe, and it worked perfectly fine. I think my kitchen was just too cold.
This is the most beautiful bread I think I have ever made, and the flavor reminded me of the King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, just like 1,000 times better. I am in love with this bread. Slightly sweet, lovely crust, and incredibly tender and light inside. Can not go wrong! I did not alter the recipe hardly at all, except for the addition of diastatic malt powder to help with the rising, and some sesame seeds on top, because my husband loves sesame seeds on his bread. I also left the directions as written on King Arthur Flour's recipe (see link under the title for the original recipe and more pictures), because I want to make sure that you all get the best information and directions for making this labor of love.
I don't know a great deal about the history and significance of this bread, other than it is significant for Jewish holidays, but I will be looking into it much more now that I know about it a bit better.
(From King Arthur Flour's Classic Challah)
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 large eggs
- 4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
- Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)
- To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them, by hand, mixer, or bread machine, until you have a soft, smooth dough.
- Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until it's puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.
- Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. (Mine was very stiff, and took closer to 3-4 hours to even rise barely double, but it still all worked out. Ended up sticking it in a warmed oven for the last 40 minutes and it finally started rising.)
- You may braid the challah the traditional way, into a three-strand braid. For a fancier presentation, make a four-strand braid, as follows (Check out KAF's Baking Banter for step by step directions and pictures) Divide the dough into four pieces, and shape each piece into a rough 6" log. Cover the logs with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Roll each log into a 15" rope. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Continue rolling the ropes til they're about 20" long; they'll shrink back to about 18" as they sit.
- Lay the strands parallel to one another, and pinch the ends on your left together.
- Take the rope nearest you, and move it up over the two adjoining ropes.
- Next, move the rope back under the rope next to it. Fan the ends of the ropes out again.
- Repeat the process, but start with the rope farthest away from you. Bring it down and across the two adjoining ropes, and then back under the rope nearest it. Continue in this fashion, alternating which side you begin with, until you've braided the whole loaf. Pinch the loose ends together, and tuck them underneath the loaf.
- Gently pick up the loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let it rise till it's very puffy, 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water, and brush this glaze over the risen loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds if desired.
- Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will insulate the bread's bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes.
- Tent the challah loosely with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 25 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.
- Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.