What can be better than the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread filling the house of a Friday night? A Freshly baked sweet Challah! This luscious sweet bread is traditionally made weekly for Friday night dinner and on special holidays, and last Friday night that is exactly what I wanted to smell.
My excitement about baking happens from first sight. If I surf through the web on a regular weeknight and suddenly come across a picture of delicious seductive sweet Challah like this one above, I know immediately what will be my next post about. I need to fall in love with the idea of eating the baked goods I'm watching before I decide to make it myself. And that is exactly what happened when I saw this Challah recipe, published in "My sweets" (by Chen Shoukroon), when I looked into cheesecakes last week in her blog. I just knew I had to make it! Better yet, I had to make love to it, because bread you make with love or not make it at all.
Now, I know that some people are not comfortable using yeast, it seems complicated or time consuming. But it's actually quite easy and rewarding, especially if you are using dry yeast. The problems that comes up; like dough not rising or ending up with dry, though bread is a thing of the past. Back than we had only fresh yeast to work with, which can be fantastic, but very sensitive so you really had to know how to work with it.
Also a little disclaimer: Some of the recipes I'll bring in these posts are firsties for me. And this Challah is no different, this is my first Challah experience. I love to experiment with new things and try new recipes. I'm addicted to the excitement that comes with discovering new outcomes from my oven. So you will go through the ups and downs of my baking experiences along with me. Having said that, I've been an armature baker since I remember my self. I am experienced in the kitchen and I learned a lot along the years so I always expect the best and so should you. Don't be afraid to try new recipes and most of all don't be afraid working with yeast.
So here we go on the roller coaster again...
This is what we need to get started!
Sift the flour into an electric mixer bowl. If you don't have a mixer, don't worry you can hand knead your dough, I did so too. Use a large bowl to start with.
Add salt and mix well. It's important to mix the salt well so it won't have direct contact with the yeast when we add it later.
Add sugar and mix again, I used raw sugar.
Add yeast and give it another good mix so it spreads well.
Using a kneading hook, start mixing on low and add the egg and butter. I tried to give it a go with my electric beater but it didn't work so I continued by hand.
Add the milk and then gradually add the water until the mixture becomes dough.
Important: When the mixture becomes a dough stop adding water, even if you have some left. On the other hand if you are out of water and the mixture is too dry and didn't come together to a unified dough than add more water, little by little until it becomes a dough (I was out of water and added a little more).
Now it's time for the love making. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. If you are kneading by hand, place dough on a lightly floured surface and use the palm of your hand with pushing motions. Don't use too much flour for dusting, the dough should stay a little sticky.
Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a plastic bag (not cling film, we need some air to come in) and a tea towel and put aside in a warm place for 1.5 hours until double in size.
After it has risen, cut the dough into 2 equal segments and then each segment into 3 equal parts. Roll the parts into a long strings equal by length and thickness.
Make a braid out of the 3 strings.
Number the strings in your head, 1(far left) 2 (middle) 3 (far right). 3 comes over 2 and "becomes" 2 and then 1 comes over 2 and "becomes" 2 and so on.
I tucked the end bits underneath the challah, to have a rounder shape at the edges. You can roll the edges a bit for a pointy result.
Brush with the egg mixture if using. You can definitely use both egg wash with sesame/poppy seeds, and honey glaze at the end of the baking process to make it sweet and shiny. I did.
Ready for second rising.
Butter is Challah's best friend.
There is no doubt it is best eaten on the day of baking. You could freeze the Challa's or easily half the recipe to make just one Challah if there aren't enough people to share, but...
Once again you should know, once you start there is no turning back!
Beautiful for a special dinner or holidays.
Makes 2 prep: 30min + rising time cook: 30-45min
1 kg Plain flour (I used 00)
100 gr Unsalted butter softened and cut into cubes
3/4 cup Sugar or raw sugar (150 gr)
1 tbs Salt (18 gr)
2 tbs Dry Yeast (18gr)
1 cup Warm Milk (240 ml)
3/4 cup Warm water (180 ml)
For the egg wash:
1 tbs Water
Sesame/poppy seeds to sprinkle
For the Honey glaze:
4 tbs Honey
4 tbs Hot water
Sift flour into an electric mixer bowl, add salt and mix well with a large metal spoon. Add sugar and mix again. Add dry yeast and mix until mixed well into the flour. Using the kneading hook, start mixing on low and add the egg and butter. Knead until you get a crumbly mixture.
Add the milk and then gradually add the water until the mixture becomes a dough.
Important: When the mixture becomes a dough stop adding water, even if you have some left. On the other hand if you are out of water and the mixture is too dry and didn't come together to a unified dough, than add more water, little by little until it becomes a dough (I was out of water and added a little more).
Now it's the love part. Knead the dough for 10 min at least until you get a soft and elastic dough. If you are doing it by hand you'll get a bit of a work out. On a floured surface knead with the palm of your hand using pushing motions. Put your body's weight into it and form the dough back every 1-2 pushes.
Check out this tutorial to get a better idea on how to hand knead your dough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWj8oHMPFm0
When done with the kneading process, oil up a clean bowl with a little oil. Form a ball out of the dough, tucking the edges underneath. Roll it a little in the bowl so it will all be covered with oil ending up with the smooth surface on top. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag (not cling film) and a tea towel and put aside in a warm place for 1.5 hours until double in size.
After it has risen, cut the dough into 2 equal segments (each one will become a Challah). Knead a little one segment to take the air out, and divide it into 3 equal parts. Roll all parts into long strings equal by length and thickness. Make a braid out of the 3 strings.
Check out this tutorial to get a better idea on how to braid a Challah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR6aIAh2Vt8
Check out this tutorial to see different types of braiding if you want to try something different:
Repeat with the second part of the dough to make the second Challah. Place both Challa's on a baking tray lined with a parchment paper.
If using the egg wash:
Beat the egg well in a small bowl and mix with the water. Brush the Challa's gently with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Set aside in a warm place to rise again for 30 min.
In the meantime warm the oven to 180°C. Bake for 25-30 min until the Challah has browned up nicely and risen well.
If using the honey glaze:
Skip the egg wash part and bake according to the instruction above.
When it comes out of the oven immediately brush with the honey mixed with water glaze.
1. If you want to make the dough a day ahead, you can rise the dough in the fridge overnight.
2. In my old oven the baking process was well over an hour. So it's a lot more than than the original recipe stated, but as you know, baking time might vary with your oven, check the Challa's after 25 minutes and see if it needs more time.
3. You can freeze the baked challa's if you want to. Wrap properly so it won't get any moisture and defrost in room temperature. warm it up in the oven for a better result.
4. Freezing the dough itself is not recommended.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you.