Saturday, April 12, 2014

Challah



Here is another catch up recipe that is very appropriate since Easter is only about a week away.  Sweet and That's It is where you can find great step by step pictures on how to make it.  And it was originally posted by one of the BBB right here in 2008.  It's funny that I've never made challah before, because we love egg bread.  I'm sure I've made something similar.  The girls loved this version, not as sweet or rich as some challahs I've seen, but so soft and spongy that they went through half a loaf in one sitting.  The recipe makes two loaves so I decided to do one in the traditional braid and one in a loaf pan.  They both turned out beautiful and I'll definitely make them again.  Might try a more enriched version next to see which we prefer.  I think this one will keep better.  If we have any leftovers, and that is a big IF, I understand that this makes the most marvelous french toast.  An egg bread for an eggy bread.  Perfect.  Since I used spelt flour for my loaf, I did not beat the batter for minutes at a time.  I added by portions as it was worked in and only kneaded until the dough was smooth and elastic.  Just a few minutes for spelt.  And while this is traditionally a fancy braided bread, it made a great sandwich style loaf as well.


Challah
makes 2 loaves

5½-6½ cups flour (I used light spelt, kamut and potato flour)
3 tbsp sugar
1½ tsp sea salt
1 pkg active dry yeast (I used 2 tsp instant yeast)
½ cup butter, softened (I used half butter, half greek yogurt)
pinch of powdered saffron (I used threads)
1 cup warm water
4 eggs, room temperature, divided
1 tsp cold water
poppy seeds for topping

Combine 1¼ cup of flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl.  Mix in the softened butter (and yogurt if using).  Stir the saffron into the warm water until it dissolves and wait for it to cool down a bit (100-110°F).  Add the saffron water slowly to the flour mixture and blend thoroughly.  Beat for about 2 minutes with an electric mixer (or in the stand mixer) at medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally.  (I did this part in the bread machine.)  Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Reserve the yolk for the egg wash.  Blend the egg white and the other 3 eggs into the batter.  Stir ½ cup flour into the batter and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Blend in enough additional flour to make a soft dough.  Knead the dough on a lightly floured board for 8 to 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.  Cover the dough and allow to rise in a warm, draft free place until double in bulk (about one hour).

To shape the dough, flour a pastry board or cloth lightly and set the dough on it.  Divide dough in half and cover one piece.  You can either do a 6 strand braid as I did, (google for directions), or do a stacked regular 3 strand braid.  Use 2/3 dough for the base and 1/3 for the top.  Tuck the ends under for a nice finish.  Repeat braiding with second piece of dough.  Place the loaves on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Mix the reserved egg yolk with the 1 tsp cold water and brush the top of the loaves with the mixture.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds and let rise covered with plastic wrap or a towel until almost double, in a warm draft free place (about 1 hour).  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400°F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until done.  Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.


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