Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bread: Rich, Soft, Smooth, Beautiful Challah Bread

I love making bread.  I find it incredibly therapeutic.  I don't use a bread maker, although I do use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer to help knead the bread dough to the perfect consistency.  My littlest man is allergic to eggs, so I frequently make eggless bread.  HOWEVER, my favorite homemade bread is challah.  It's a Jewish Sabbath bread that is traditionally served on Friday nights.  I made some this weekend, and I was reminded exactly why I love it so much.

Challah Bread
1 braided loaf                                       7-15 hours
This traditional Jewish Sabbath bread, blessed and served before Friday-night dinner, is a sort of butterless brioche.  It is particularly good at breakfast. It’s AMAZING as french toast.
Combine in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes:
1 pkg (2 ¼ t) active dry yeast           
½ C warm (105-115) water
½ C all-purpose flour
2 lg. eggs, lightly beaten                     
2 egg yolks, broken
3 T veg. oil                                           
 3 T sugar
1 ¼ t salt
Mix on low speed until thoroughly blended.  Gradually Stir in 2 ½ C bread flour.  Knead for about 8 minutes on low to medium speed with dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to the bowl.  Transfer dough to oiled bowl, and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 – 1 ½ hrs. Punch dough down, knead briefly, and refrigerate covered until it has again nearly doubled in volume (3/4 rise is sufficient), 4-12 hours. The dough is now ready to be shaped. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. On an unfloured work surface, roll into balls and let rest, covered loosely with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Grease baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Roll each ball into a 13 – 14 inch long rope, about 1 ½ inches thick and slightly tapered at the ends. Dust the 3 ropes with flour so that become more distinctly separated if desired. Place 3 ropes side by side, pinch tops together, braid, pinch ends together at bottom of braid.  Tuck both “pinched ends” under.  Brush top of loaf with egg wash (1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt).  Loosely cover the braid with lightly oiled plastic wrap, let rise in a warm place until not quite doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375, brush loaf again with egg wash.  Bake until crust is golden brown and bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped, 30-35 minutes.  Let cool completely on rack.

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