December 2, 2015

Challah Bread

A few times I've been around that track,
So it's not just gonna happen like that,
Cause I ain't no challah-back girl.
I ain't no Challah-back girl


I'm sorry, but if you guys haven't come to expect this sort of thing by now, what are we even doing here?

Remember the last post when I told you that because I was a crazy person, I used bread I baked that morning to make French toast? This is that bread. I had forgotten to check the bakery to see if they had any challah and I needed it for the recipe, so because I'm me, I figured I'd just make my own.

Except, I couldn't really find a recipe that I liked, so I kinda sorta made this one up? So I have no idea if it's actually authentic or not. I mean, I looked at a ton of challah recipes, so I kinda knew what I was doing, except I just did it my way. *cue Sinatra music*
I was low on all-purpose flour, but I had an unopened bag of bread flour. I figured that would be fine since, you know, I was making bread, but it was actually really hard to find a recipe that used bread flour. And the ones that did had weirdy instructions (one called for half an egg. Half an egg. That's crazy talk) or more ingredients than I had in my kitchen, like a billion eggs or milk.

Instead of making myself crazy trying to find the perfect recipe, I just sort of decided on a ratio of ingredients that seemed reasonable and headed to the mixer. What came out looked reasonably like bread dough, so I proceeded.
And guys, it was actually pretty easy. I let my mixer do all the kneading, and I let the dough do it's first rise in the fridge overnight (cause I was too lazy to finish that night, which is why the bread was so fresh when I went to make the French toast). I didn't even have to use a rolling pin, I just rolled out dough "strands" for braiding with my two hands. Even the braiding wasn't too hard-- I decided to go with the traditional 6-strand braid because I wanted a taller loaf, and I just watched a couple tutorials on youtube before doing it. It didn't come out perfectly, as you can see, but I think it looks pretty good for my first time.

It did rise a lot more in the oven than I expected. A lot more. It tried to take the top oven rack with it when I took it out. So take out your top oven rack, just to be sure.
As for the taste, well, it was pretty good if I do say so myself. But you've got to wait and let it cool completely before eating it, maybe even let it sit for a bit. I know the temptation to eat warm bread fresh from the oven, I do, but if you eat this warm, it will just taste like any old bread. But if you're patient enough and let it cool, it tastes so much better. It's so soft and fluffy and slightly sweet, and I kind of ate half a loaf in the name of taste-testing.

I still don't know if it's authentic or not, but I let my mother try some, and now she's obsessed with it. So, authentic or not, it's still some good bread.

Even if you ain't no challah-back girl.
I can't help it.
Challah Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

1 1/2 cups very warm water (about 110-120 degrees F)
1/4 cup melted butter
4 tbsp. honey
1 packet active dry yeast
6-7 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. of water)
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Mix together the water, butter, and honey. Add the yeast and stir until dissolved. Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook whisk together 2 cups of flour and the salt. Add the yeast mixture and the eggs and mix on low until well combined. Add 2 more cups of flour and mix on low for about two minutes. Gradually add in 2 more cups of flour.

Knead in the mixer about 6-8 minutes, or by hand for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough is too sticky, add the remaining cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Shape your dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat completely. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours (or refrigerate and let rise overnight, 6-8 hours).

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut it in half and form two balls. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Working with one ball at a time, divide into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long, thin rope. Pinch the tops of the ropes together and braid to form a loaf. Repeat with the second half of the dough. cover both loaves and let rise until doubled, 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the loaves with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if using. Bake 35-45 minutes, until the loaves are well browned and sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Let cool before slicing.

Tip: I heat the water and butter together to save time. The butter doesn't have to be completely melted before adding the yeast-- it will continue to melt as it sits in the warm water.

If you don't feel comfortable doing a six-strand braid, you can always do a regular 3 strand braid instead.

Recipe by Kim