Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hot Bread Kitchen Challah

I've been in a baking kind of mood lately. Lots of swirling shapes and rising dough. Today I have for you quite a different take on challah than what I was familiar with and what you might know. It is dense and rich and filled with spice. I read about Jessamyn Waldman in November's Food & Wine. She is the source of this Sephardic recipe and the founder of Hot Bread Kitchen, a nonprofit that bakes artisanal breads from around the world and creates opportunities for immigrant woman. The organization's tagline, "Preserving Tradition, Raising Expectations," is incredibly inspiring to me and the work that they do even more so. Read more here.

Follow their lead and bake up a loaf or two of this dense sesame, caraway and anise studded bread. It looks so pretty I could hardly bear to slice into it, but it tastes equally good.

Jessamyn's Sephardic Challah
Adapted from Food & Wine

Makes two nine-inch loaves.

3 Tb sesame seeds
1 1/2 Tb caraway seeds
1 1/2 Tb anise seeds

1 envelope active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water

5 cups bread flour

2 1/2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tb honey

1 Tb kosher salt

Cornmeal for dusting
2 large egg yolks

In a skillet, toast the sesame, caraway and anise seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the water and let stand until thoroughly moistened, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour with the olive oil, the honey and the remaining water and mix at low speed until a very soft dough forms. Add the kosher salt, yeast mixture and all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds and mix at medium-low speed until the dough is supple and smooth, 10 minutes. Using oiled hands, transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free spot until the dough is risen, 1 hour.

Lightly oil 2 small cookie sheets and dust them with cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press to deflate. Cut the dough in half and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope and let rest for 5 minutes longer, then roll each rope into a 32-inch rope. Beginning at the center and working outwards, form each rope into a coil; tuck the ends under the coils.

Transfer each coil to a baking sheet and cover each loaf with a large, inverted bowl. Let stand for 1 hour, until the loaves have nearly doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and let stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash once more and sprinkle with the reserved 1 tablespoon of seeds. Bake the loaves side-by-side in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until they’re golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer the loaves to racks and let cool completely before slicing.

The loaves can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated for up to 1 week.


  1. THAT looks yummy! i just made soda breads yesterday...

  2. I think this is the most beautiful challah I've ever seen! xo

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Michelle and Natasha!

  4. Anonymous4:58 PM

    Looks delicious! I love anise, and I'm going to try that.

  5. The anise really makes it and they really just bake up so lovely — let me know if you do make them , Natalie!