Bake 52 Week 6: Challah

Welcome to my week to host!

I chose this recipe for a few reasons.  First, the Bake 52 group decided we needed to choose recipes at least 2 weeks in advance, to help minimize the number of trips we all had to take to the store.  In my current state of pregnancy, it’s hard for me to know what I’m going to want for dinner, let alone what I’m going to feel like baking two or three weeks down the road.  But bread is a staple for me.  Odds were high that I’d still be in the mood for this recipe by the time my turn to host rolled around.

Second, it’s pretty.  I make bread and rolls regularly, but I’ve not ventured into anything beyond the basics.  I thought it would be fun to try out this decorative bread.

And third, the recipe had me at “Leftover challah makes sensational French toast”…..if there’s one thing I love more than pizza, it’s French toast! (well, that’s not totally true…but it does come in a close second to pizza 🙂 ).

A couple of added benefits that I hadn’t anticipated was a nice break for the sweet tooth, as well as a much needed break for the pocketbook!

Overall, this one gets a 10 for presentation.  It really is quite pretty.  As for taste…..maybe a 7.  It didn’t wow me, but it was good.  I’ve had bread that has left my mouth watering for more…. Challah didn’t do that for me.

Will I make it again?  Probably.  It was fairly quick and easy and would make for a nice bread to take to a dinner party.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe!  (my two cents added in red)

CHALLAH

Dough:
1/2 cup warm water
4 TB (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (save the white for the glaze)
3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

Glaze:
1 large egg white (left from the egg yolk you used for the dough)
2 TB water
1 tsp poppy or sesame seeds (optional) NOTE:  Don’t add these to the glaze mixture.  They will be sprinkled on.  Also, I think the seeds are mostly for looks, so if you don’t have them, I wouldn’t run out and buy them.  They won’t really add anything to the flavor.

1. For the dough: Whisk the water, melted butter, eggs, and egg yolk together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 3 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the water mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

2. Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If ater 4 minutes more flour is needed, add the reamining 1/2 cup flour, 2 TB at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom. I did have to add a bit more flour to pull the dough a little more off the sides of the bowl.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Mine took longer to rise, and never really got double in size.  I finally just went ahead with the recipe when I didn’t think it would rise anymore.

4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and, following the photos on page 114, divide the dough into 2 pices, one twice as large as the other. Divide each piece into 3 pieces and roll each piece out into a 16-inch long rope (3 ropes will be much thicker).  I had too much flour on my counter.  The ropes got coated with flour, and when I tried to roll them into ropes, they just slid all over the counter.  Be stingy with the flour here!

Read steps 5 & 6 before proceeding, and then read the section “Braiding Challah” for more details on the braid.

5. For the glaze and to braid: Beat the egg white and the water together in a small bowl. Braid two loaves, one large and one small. Transfer the larger braid to the prepared baking sheet, brush with some of the egg white-water mixture, and secure the smaller braid on top. Tuck both ends under the loaf. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size and the dough barely springs back when poked with a knuckle, 45-75 minutes.

I messed  up here.  I failed to read step 6, so I brushed the entire loaf with the eggwhite mixture before leaving it to rise.  I also failed to realize that I shouldn’t have mixed the poppy seeds in with the glaze (a note in the ingredients list would have been nice….I added the one above)….they just sink to the bottom of the mixture and you end up sprinkling them on anyway.

Braiding Challah

1. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one twice as large as the other.
2. Divide the large piece of dough into 3 ropes, each about 16 inches long and 1 inch thick. Line the 3 ropes up side by side and pinch the top ends together to seal.
3. Take the dough rope on the right and lay it over the center rope. Take the dough rope on the left and lay it over the center rope (aka, braid. I suppose if you are a guy, you might need such detailed directions….most of us girls could figure this out!)
4. Repeat until the ropes od ough are entirely braided. Pinch the ends together.
5. Divide the smaller piece of dough into 3 ropes, about 16 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Braid as directed above.
6. Transfer the larger braid to a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with some of the egg white mixture, and secure the smaller braid on top. Tuck both ends under the loaf.

6. Adjust and oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 357°. Brush the loaf with the reamining egg white-water mixture, sprinkle with the seeds (if using), then spray lightly with water. Bake until golden and the center of the loaf registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 30-40 minutes, rotating the loaf halfway through baking. Cool the bread on the bakng sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, before serving. I baked for 30 minutes and felt like it was a tad too long….the bottom crust was pretty tough.  Next time, I’ll try 25 minutes and see how it looks.

PRETTY!  I was surprised that it came out of the oven looking pretty much like the picture in the recipe book….that doesn’t usually happen for me!

I disregarded the advice to let the Challah cool for 2 hours before serving.  There’s nothing better than warm bread topped with homemade jam!

We made French toast for dinner to decide if it really was sensational.  Again, it didn’t wow me.  It was good French toast, but it wasn’t anything out of this world.

I did enjoy trying a bread that is a little bit out-of-the-norm and am excited to try some of the other bread recipes in the book!

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6 Responses to “Bake 52 Week 6: Challah”

  1. Jen Says:

    I loved making this Jen, thanks for picking such a fun recipe. I had many of the same thoughts– it wasn’t the flavor that made this special, but the presentation! I loved how beautiful it was! It was nice to have the ingredients on hand, too, and not have to run to the store for special things. Great pick!!

  2. Amanda Says:

    great pick! I am glad I am not the only one who was expecting it to be sweeter. Maybe I didn’t forget the sugar. But this rising business has me in a fit. 🙂

  3. Jen O'Neal Says:

    I agree Jen, who could wait 2 hours to have cold slice of fresh bread when you could wait 10 minutes and have a warm slice right out of the oven.

  4. bekah Says:

    Looks great! Thanks for picking such a fun recipe. I thought the braiding was so much fun, and it does make a lovely loaf of bread… and yummy french toast.

  5. Em Says:

    Wow. This is going to be a hard thing for me to keep up with. Seriously. But it was a lot of fun to do, and I remembered that it really isn’t that hard to make breads. I don’t know why I always feel so hesitant to do it.

    Very nice recipe.

  6. Courtney Says:

    I did the same thing – forgot to read the whole recipe on step 6 and i brushed the bread too before the second rise hahaha I was like, “oops”.

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