Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Challah Bread

Isn't she a beauty?! I can't help it—I am pleased. This is one pretty loaf of bread that came out of my oven.

I've been wanting to try baking challah for ages. I was working my way through overwhelming stacks of food magazines over the holidays and came across this recipe in Saveur that I decided to give a shot. I took it to a holiday party so don't have any photos of the inside, but it definitely held its own and was fantastic for a first go-round. Lots of oohing and ahhing. Cuz it's dang purdy.

The original recipe had you braid four portions, but … what?!? How does that work? Go for three, it makes life easy. And really, challah is not harder than any other bread as long as you can braid. Kneading, rising, shaping, proofing, baking. Try it. You'll like it! And then there's the french toast. Need I say more?

Challah Bread
Adapted from Saveur
Makes 1 loaf
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. milk, heated to 115°
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast
4 tbsp. unsalted butter,
melted, plus more for
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg yolk
Sesame seeds, to garnish

Stir together milk, 1 tsp. sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Let sit until foamy,  about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together butter and eggs. Add to yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add flour, remaining sugar, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. 

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a lightly greased large bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Uncover, punch dough down, and re-cover; let sit until slightly puffed, 30 minutes.

Uncover dough, divide into 3 equal portions, and roll each into a 18"-long rope. Align dough ropes side by side, and pinch together ends farthest from you to form one end of loaf. Braid ropes and pinch ends together  and fold under slightly to seal.  Transfer braided loaf to a parchment paper—lined baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap; let proof for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°. 

Stir together egg yolk and 1 tbsp. water in a small bowl and brush all over surface of loaf; sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds. Bake until loaf is dark golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

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