How often do you stare at the pinterest images of food and hope you get to have them on your plate..or better still make it on your own ? Well i had that feeling days back as i drooled over some pictures of challah bread. It looked soo dreamy and perfect !I decided to give it a go and here is my first Challah bread for you. Read on and get your yeast ready coz i can promise you would want to try it too 🙂
I am a novice baker and though i feel pretty confident with cakes and casseroles, my heart is always fluttering with mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness when i am dealing with breads. Breads, in my opinion is true to what they say about baking – Science ! I have made many a loaves of breads in the past 2 years and have come to realize that even the smallest change can effect the outcome of homemade breads. I have had my share of hard breads, under cooked breads and dense breads but every time i get it right, all the efforts feel worth it !
Luckily, i have had good luck with baking basic wheat breads in the last 8-10 months and i thought it was time to take my bread game to the next level. Then one day, I sat in front of my laptop hunting for ideas on pinterest and braided breads just caught my eye. I find them charismatic and full of character. I thought why not, lets do braiding this time ! Now, i had to decide the type of bread i would want to bake.
I always admire the custardy smell that comes of this bakery near my house and they have the most amazing brioches, baguettes, sourdoughs. .. sometimes even challah. When i visited there last time, the bakery guy offered me a slice of freshly baked challah… oh my my, what heaven that was ! It was, to be true.. one of my most cherished slices of bread till date 🙂 That seemed too perfect for me to try in my kitchen but i thought it was worth trying once 🙂 When Sarika Seth Gunjal of Taste of the world contacted me for her Bread collective post, i knew what i would be bringing 😛
Those who are new to Challah (pronounced as Halla) it is a special Jewish braided bread eaten on sabbath and Jewish Holidays. It is usually prepared using eggs, flour, salt, sugar, yeast, water and fat. Some Challah breads also have added raisins, nuts etc.I am trying a basic challah bread today with a sweet vanilla sugar egg wash and poppy seeds on top.
- 4 cups flour, plus 1/2 cup extra for kneading/dusting
- 2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4th cup olive oil, plus extra to grease a bowl
- 2 eggs, plus 1 extra for an egg wash before baking (3 eggs total)
- 1.5 tsp salt, depending on your taste
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 tablespoon sugar for egg wash
- 1 tablespoon Poppy seeds for dusting
- In a bowl, take the warm water. To this, add the sugar and add the dry active yeast. Stir and allow the yeast to froth. This would take approximately 10-15 minutes. If the yeast does not activate, throw it and start again. A good yeast rise is the first step to a well risen bread.
- Next, add in the oil and salt.Mix well.
- Now, slowly add in the 2 eggs (both the yolk and the whites) and whisk well. The mix should be homogenous.
- Add in the flour (one cup at a time) and form into a little sticky yet soft dough. You can either use a stand mixer or hands to knead the dough. If you are using a stand mixer, reserve about half a cup of flour. Stand mixer takes about 7-8 minutes to knead the dough. The dough would initially look sticky an would stick to the sides of the bowl. Depending on the consistency, add one tablespoon of flour at a time till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl and come together into a soft and smooth dough.
- Place this dough in a well oiled deep bowl and cover the bowl with clear film. Let it stand for about 1 hour. The dough will rise to double the size.
- Remove the clear film and punch down the dough. Knead for a couple of minutes. Now, divide the dough into 6 equal parts.and roll out into 12-14″ dough ropes.Keep them on a slightly floured surface to form into a braid. You can have a look at this video for understanding how to braid. I followed this and got a pretty decent braid in the first go itself. If it does not turn out that well, don’t fret. If there are any gaps in the braid, most of the small ones will get covered up when the dough rises the second time.
- Transfer the braid loaf on an greased baking tray and over with a cloth. Let it rest for another hour or till the dough has doubled.
- Pre-heat the oven at 375F/ 180C and keep it ready. Beat the 3rd egg for the egg wash. Add in the vanilla essence and 1 tablespoon sugar. Mix well. Now, apply 1 coat of egg wash mix on the loaf. Sprinkle poppy seeds on the top.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and apply a second coat of egg wash. Bake again for 15-20 minutes till the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool down. To check if the loaf is baked, try tapping on the top. It should be crusty on the top and feel light and hollow inside.
- Let the loaf completely cool down before cutting the loaf into slices.
This yeast, doughy and eggy bread is like the most decadent of the breads i have eaten so far !! The whole house was filled with the sweet aroma of vanilla, sugar and yeast… what i call, the smell of a successful bread 🙂 The house literally smelled like a bakery and i could not be any more delighted !
The usual challah bread calls for a basic egg wash but i like a little sweetness in the bread and decided to give a sweet vanilla sugar egg wash. It works wonder in this recipe and makes the bread what it is – C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.O.R.Y !! We could not really wait for the bread to cool down and while it was still somewhat hot, i cut 2 big fat slices and smeared some homemade butter and my chia strawbery jam on it .. the result…OMG ! It was soooo good !! You must try this bread recipe 🙂
Interested in Breads ? Try some of these other recipes as well: