Friday, May 6, 2011

Delicious Challah

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The week hasn't been as busy as I had expected. The camp is still happening. We have more than 475 kids attending every single day. It is chaotic and fun at the same time. But, I am helping from home, over the phone, because I am still sick. I hate being sick. My husband, the superhero that he is, is holding the fort at the camp and doing all the hard work. Thank God for him! I have had to go there only thrice this week.

The weather here is unbearably hot. 105 degrees and climbing! I'm surviving on watermelons and popsicles. Not the best things when you're nursing a cold, but what else can I do? I'll be fine soon though.

I've been enjoying seeing all the awesome Mexican fare in all the blogs. I wish I had the time and energy to shop and cook up a Mexican feast to share with you all. I love Mexican and I think it could easily be my favorite cuisine! And I hope you all had a delicious Cinco de Mayo!

But, my energy levels are way too low at the moment. So, I made my favorite comfort food - fresh, warm bread!

I've mentioned quite a few times on this blog, that I really enjoy working with yeast. Earlier this week, I posted about the Filled Doughnuts I made last week. This week, I decided I wasn't going to fry anything. I haven't baked in a while, and so, I made the classic Jewish bread - Challah. I have always loved this sweetish bread. It isn't easily available where I live, but I have really enjoyed it the few times I've eaten it. I am really glad I decided to make it at home. It is SO good! I know this really isn't the season for Challah, but it is good bread and good bread is always welcome in our home!

I made a loaf last night. Everyone loved it so much that I immediately mixed up the dough for another batch, and left it to slow rise in the refrigerator overnight. We really loved having fresh bread for breakfast the this morning! I adapted this recipe from combining various recipes that I read while I was researching Challah breads. The main change I made was to reduce the sugar, because I realized not everyone likes their bread as sweet as I do. The recipe I have given you below has the right amount of sugar, because I know Challah bread is meant to be quite sweet.

Most bread recipes call for bread flour. That makes sense. But, we don't have bread flour available here, and so I used all purpose flour. I just kneaded it extra to work the gluten. It worked perfectly fine. The bread was soft and delicious.

Challah Bread
Starter sponge:
2 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (1 envelope)
1/4 cup honey
1 cup warm water
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 olive oil/vegetable oil
1 whole egg + 3 large egg yolks, beaten lightly
3/4 cup sugar (I used only 1/3 cup)
2 tsp salt
3-3 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
Egg wash:
1 whole egg
1 tbsp water
A pinch of salt
Sesame or Poppy Seeds

1. In a large bowl, add the yeast, honey and warm water. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until frothy.
2. Stir in the 1 cup of flour and mix till smooth. Set aside, undisturbed, in a warm place for 30-45 minutes. At the end of this time, the sponge will have doubled in volume and the surface will be covered in small to large bubbles.
3. Stir in the egg, egg yolks, and oil. Mix till well combined.
4. Add the sugar and salt and mix in.
5. Add 3 cups of the flour and stir well till combined.
6. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead well, adding more flour only if required. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Don't let the dough become stiff and dry. I needed about 3 1/4 cups of flour.
7. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. If you are using all purpose flour, like I did, spend more time kneading the dough. For best results, knead using a dough mixer.
8. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with greased cling wrap.
9. If you want to bake the bread the same day, allow the dough to rise for 2 hours. Then knock it down, and form into a loaf or braid. Allow the dough to rise on the baking sheet or loaf tin for an hour. Brush with 2-3 coats of the egg wash, sprinkle on the toppings and bake for 30-40 minutes.

10. If you want to allow it to slow rise, place the covered bowl in a warm place for an hour. Knock it down, knead for a few minutes and put it back in the bowl, cover it and refrigerate it overnight. The next morning, let the dough sit out for an hour. Form the dough into the desired shape on a baking sheet or in a loaf tin. Let it rise for an hour, brush with 2-3 coats of the egg wash, sprinkle on the toppings and bake for 30-40 minutes. 

Note: The top of this bread tends to brown really quick. So, halfway through the baking time, you might want to cover the top of the loaf with aluminum foil to avoid excessive browning.

My little girl loved the bread. She chewed on the heel of the loaf (my favorite part of any loaf, too) for a long time and finished every crumb. This morning, apart from fresh bread, we had cheesy french toast with smoked paprika using the older loaf. I think it would have been even better if the bread was a day older, but it was still delicious!

While making this bread is time consuming, it isn't too much work at all. Unless you call waiting work. I assure you - the soft, slightly sweet bread is well worth the wait!
And I think the dough is versatile enough to be used for other things as well. I intend to try lots of things with this dough. Look out!

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In Katrina's Kitchen said...

What a lovely Challah! I love recipes that are such a hit that you make them twice in a row!! ♥- Katrina

spcookiequeen said...

Warm bread always works for me. Your bread looks so good, came out like a bakery. Hopefully you can rest a bit soon. 105, I thought we had it bad yest. at 90.

Briarrose said...

Amazing loaf....the braid work is quite lovely. Beautiful job.

Mary@One Perfect Bite said...

What a lovely challah. I love the way the house smells when bread is baking in the oven. Your loaf looks perfect and I'll wager it was delicious. Feel better soon. Blessings...Mary

theharriedcook said...

I know! I love when that happens too :) Thanks for stopping by!

theharriedcook said...

Thanks so much for your kind words, Gina! :) Yeah the weather is getting pretty unbearable right now... Hoping this heat won't last long... Thanks for stopping by :)

theharriedcook said...

Thank you so much! :) I was glad the way it turned out too...

theharriedcook said...

Thank you, Mary! I adore that fresh bread smell too! :) I am feeling much better already :) thanks!

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

Yay so glad you made your own challah. I made my first loaf recently and it was so yummy and versatile for eating out of hand or french toast, bread pudding, etc! Yours looks great!

BakingSerendipity said...

This bread looks wonderful, but the french toast is over the top! I hope you are feeling better soon and staying cool! It will be 105+ here in Phoenix soon, and I'm trying to ignore the fact that it will happen!

theharriedcook said...

Thank you, Xiaolu! :) I agree about how versatile this bread is... I have been really enjoying this bread! :) Thanks for stopping by...

theharriedcook said...

Thanks :) I didn't know it got that hot there... We have now crossed 107 and it's still getting hotter... I am feeling much better thank you! And thanks for stopping by! :)

Pudding Pie Lane said...

I love home made bread, and looking at photos of it. Your camp sounds extremely busy, imagine having to bake for all of them! :P

Sandra's Easy cooking said...

This looks amazingly delicious! Wonderful photos and great post! Thanks for sharing!

Nami said...

Hi Marsha! I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend. :-) This challah looks so delicious! I can tell from the picture already... I'm not even willing to make homemade bread by myself (it will fail!) and I'm so envious!!! Really beautiful and I wish I can learn making bread from you (in person)!

theharriedcook said...

Thank you, Xinmei! :) You certainly put things in perspective! Thank goodness I didn't have to bake for all of them! :)

theharriedcook said...

Thank you, Sandra! :) I loved visiting your blog and I will be back for more... Thanks for stopping by!

theharriedcook said...

Thanks for your kind words, Nami! It isn't that hard and I am sure you would do a great job if you tried.... I don't think I can teach you much, because I am quite the novice myself... but this recipe was a good one and the bread was fantastic! :) Hope you had an awesome Mother's Day too! :)

theharriedcook said...

Thanks for your kind words, Nami! It isn't that hard and I am sure you would do a great job if you tried.... I don't think I can teach you much, because I am quite the novice myself... but this recipe was a good one and the bread was fantastic! :) Hope you had an awesome Mother's Day too! :)

The Culinary Lens said...

This looks beautiful I can generally only manage a three string braid. I am not  to coordinated LOL

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