A five-strand braid Challah will provide us with this week’s bread. If we’re lucky, it will last until next weekend to be the main ingredient of a perfect French toast.
Challah was a special occasion bread when I was growing up. Traditionally, Challah is a Jewish celebration bread enjoyed on most Jewish holidays and on Shabbat. It does take time and effort. As warm as our Arctic home is, I never could get the “let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place” down. If you’ve been following along, you know I depend on my bread machine as the warm, draft-free place.
This challah recipe came from 300 Best Bread Machine Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt. The bread was eggy and had the texture and taste I remember growing up. The machine did all the work kneading and rising. As for the braiding technique, I followed a terrific tutorial on theshiksa.com.
1 cup water
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp butter (room temperature)
4 cups bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water
Measure bread ingredients into baking pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Insert pan into the oven chamber. Select dough cycle.
Remove dough to a lightly floured board; cover with a large bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into 5 portions. Roll each with the palm of your hand into long, smooth ropes (1 inch in diameter). Braid. See tutorial (www.shiksa.com) for directions. Pinch ends together. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume (30 – 40 minutes).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
When the dough has risen, beat egg yolk and water. Brush braid with glaze.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until braid sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
The bread loaves are nestled in kitchen towels to hide the fact that we ate half of one of the loaves before I could take a photo!
Two similar breads came to mind for my next baking adventure. Swiss Zopf, which is known as Züpfe in the Bernese region of Switzerland, and Challah, a traditional sabbath bread in the Jewish tradition. I was lucky enough to enjoy both when I was young. They are similar in texture and in their beautiful braided presentation.
Yesterday’s decision to create loaves of Züpfe was based on my being able to adapt the dough to my bread machine. The temperature in our house doesn’t seem conducive to bread rising. The same problem exists when I try to let bread rise in the oven. To modify Victoria’s recipe for my Zojirushi bread machine, I mixed all the wet ingredients and placed them at the bottom of the pan. I layered on the bread flour and the yeast. Per many suggestions by recipe users, I also added one teaspoon of salt. After the bread dough processed in the machine, I braided the dough using a four-strand braid and let it rise on a parchment covered baking sheet for about an hour in a barely heated oven before finally baking it. It doubled in size!
Honestly, when I was finished braiding the bread, I had one of those I-am-so-impressed-with-myself moments. At these moments, I totally get the end zone celebration dance. Then it came out of the oven – wow! I proudly paraded the baked beauties through the house so that Jack and Maia would be impressed. The final victory? Hot slices of deliciously soft bread slathered in butter.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the egg yolk, butter and 2 cups of bread flour; stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 14 inch long cylinder. Braid the pieces together and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
In a small bowl, beat together egg white and water. Brush risen loaf with egg wash and bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25, until golden.