Challah Bread

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Nothing beats freshly baked bread. Really, there are very few things! Even if prince charming was put up against a loaf of steaming fresh butter-melting bread, I’d probably choose the bread… like a thousand percent of the time! I’m pretty sure anyone that has filled their home with the wafting fumes of fresh bread would agree with me.

I definitely don’t make bread at home often enough. I’m sure a lot of people can say that. But why? It’s really quite simple! Not only is bread making easy, there’s also something really therapeutic about it. Turning simple ingredients like flour, water and yeast and crafting it into something completely different from it’s original state. Not to mention handling and kneading the dough, seeing the dough change throughout it’s hours of resting, and finally artfully crafting a loaf (or just poppin’ in it in a pan). Now before I go further. Yes, I said “throughout hours of resting” it can be hours.. which is why so many of us don’t make bread often. BUT if you have a morning/afternoon at your house, then it’s not so bad. I went to the store, did laundry, walked the dog and all in between giving the dough a few kneads and letting it rise!

 

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But anyway, back to crafting a loaf. Above (and below) you’ll see some delicious looking braided loafs :) Which is what this is aaaalllll about. Segway into CHALLAH!!! Challah is a semi sweet egg bread, it’s fluffy and soft, sometimes topped with sesame or poppy seeds. I’s great with just a swipe of butter; it’s also GREAT for french toast and leftover thanksgiving sandwiches, oh baby! We have a few good spots here in Vancouver. Of course Solly’s, our jewish delicatessen has a nice one, Siegal’s does as well and it’s delightfully getting more popular to be seen year round in many bakeries. Nothing will beat challah in Montreal though and don’t even get me started on their bagels!!! That’s a whole other story.

See a few braids below I learned from one of teachers in pastry school, Eiberhart.. a very tall, string-bean-like pastry chef from Austria. He specialized in bread yet had contracted an allergy to flour due to being around it since a young boy in his fathers viennese bakery. He still taught each day, he just wore a mask and gloves when he could. Now that is being committed to your passion people.

Moral of the story? I, (perhaps not quite as much as Eiberhart) LOVE FRESH BREAD.

The 2 strand bread. This makes for a nice and puffy loaf! :)

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The 6 strand braid. This braid gives a good even height for the entire loaf!

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The oh so simple three strand braid.. gives you a baguette sized loaf.

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Finally the 7 strand braid. Kind of like the fishtail braid you’d do for your hair. Which I cannot do to my hair for the life of me. My dough braid is also quite messy. Go figure.

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Challah Bread
Makes 2 loaves. Total time 3 hours
Ingredients
  • 6 cups of all-purpose flour (+1 cup to dust work bench & for kneading)
  • 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 packets rapid rise yeast
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil (+ plus more for the bowl)
  • 1¾ cup of water (luke warm to touch)
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

Before baking top with egg wash:

  • 2 egg yollks, whisked, at room temperature (using whole eggs isn’t the end of the world)
  • Splash of water and pinch of salt
  • Sprinkle of poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)
Instructions
  1. Sift 6 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and yeast into a large mixing bowl (or if you’re lazy like me whisk them all together for a minute)
  2. Add oil, water, and 3 large eggs into the bowl.
  3. Using a spatula, mix until they are incorporated.
  4. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured kitchen counter and knead with your hands for about 15 minutes.
  5. Grease a clean bowl with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Place the dough seam side down into the greased bowl. Turn the dough a few times to oil its surface.
  6. Cover the bowl lightly with a cloth or dish towel. Let it sit in a warmer part of your house for close to one and a half hours or until it doubles in size.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
  8. Punch down the dough and cut it into 2 equal sized pieces using a bench scraper or a knife.
  9. Leave one half covered with a slightly wet towel. Divide one of the pieces into 6 equal pieces (or however many strands for the braid you choose to do) Roll each piece into a 12-14 inch strand.
  10. See the video below of the lovely “Bread Kitchen” women. She’ll show you how to braid.
  11. Make sure the ends of your braid are tucked underneath the loaf and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  12. Brush the top of loaf with whisked egg yolks (this gives it a nice golden brown colour shine) and sprinkle with seeds if desired.
  13. Let it rise on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes or until it’s “proofing” is done. It will expand while resting. It is done when you lightly poke it and your finger print remains in the dough.
  14. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top turns to golden brown. Remove it from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before slicing.
  15. Repeat the same process for the second loaf.
  16. Eat while warm if you can and ENJOY!!