Challah Bread

DSC00757 May 7, 2012
A day after graduation, I celebrated the first day of my week-long summer break by making macarons and challah bread. I once again turned to the recipe from America's Test Kitchen baking book, which is slowly becoming my go to for fail-safe recipes. Unlike many challah recipes calling for intricate braiding, the ATK challah recipe calls for a smaller braid atop of a larger braid of bread, which yields the distinct braided bread without sacrificing the height or volume of the bread.
The bread is best after completely being cooled. I found the lingering sweet and eggy aftertaste of the bread particularly pleasing. The challah bread makes for some amazing french toast or a great accompaniment to some strawberry jam.

Challah Bread

1/2 cup warm water
1/2 stick unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3-3.5 cups All purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope (2_ 1/4 tsp) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1_1/4 tsp salt

Egg wash
1 large egg white
2 TB water

1.) Combine dry ingredients (3 cups of all purpose flour, sugar, yeast and salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook. In a separate bowl, whisk warm water, melted butter, eggs and egg yolk together. To the bowl of dry ingredients, add wet ingredients while stand mixer is on low until dough comes together in 2 minutes.
2.) Increase mixer speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic for four minutes. Continue kneading for an additional four minutes, adding the remaining 1/2 cup of apf two tablespoons at a time until the dough clears the side of the bowl.
3.) Lightly flour a surface. Knead dough on surface by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let dough rise for 1 to 1.5 hours.
4.) After rise, turn dough onto floured counter and divide the dough into two pieces with one piece 1/3 the dough and the other piece with 2/3 of the dough.
5.) Divide each piece of dough into 3 ropes, each about 16 inches long. Line up the three ropes side by side and pinch the top ends together in a seal. Braid teh dough and pinch the ends together. Repeat for each piece of dough.
6.) Transfer larger braid to a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush egg wash over larger braid. Place smaller braid on top of the larger braid, secure smaller braid on top by tucking both ends under the loaf and brush egg wash over smaller braid.
7.) Cover loaf with plastic wrap and let rise for 45-75 minutes or until doubled in size.
8.) Heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush loaf with remaining egg glaze and sprinkle any poppy seeds or sesame seeds if using. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Cool the bread for at least two hours.

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