Challah

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted a bread, but I’ve got a wonderful one for you today! Don’t you just love “Tasty Tuesdays?!”

I’ve always been a little hesitant to make Challah because it looked so difficult. But, what’s a little challenge right? Thankfully, my friend Anna was set on it and came over to help with the process.

In the end we ended up with two glorious loaves. Lightly browned on the top with a buttery, sweet, and soft centre.  What’s even better is that you can freeze the loaf and it will taste even better re-heated!

This bread is perfect for a Sunday family dinner, holidays, or a classy dinner party. However, plan on it taking you most of the day. I’m not saying there won’t be periods where you can hop out to the mall or meet a friend for coffee, but you will need to at least be available for frequent kneading periods. I started mine around 8am and it was finished for 7pm.

Ingredients:

Starter

– 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

– 1 teaspoon instant yeast

– 2/3 cup water (room temperature)

– 2 tablespoons honey

– 3 eggs (room temperature)

Dough

– 4 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

– 1 ¼ teaspoon instant yeast

– 1 Tablespoon salt

– 2 eggs (cold)

– 1/3 cup corn oil

– 6 Tablespoons honey

– 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Glaze

– 1 egg (lightly beaten)

– 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

Step One: (This can be done the night before) – Mix together the starter ingredients until smooth. The starter will be a thick batter. Cover (with a lid or plastic wrap) and set aside. (You can set it aside for the night or continue on to step 2)

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Step Two: Using your dough ingredients, whisk the flour and yeast and then add in the salt. You want to avoid the salt coming into direct contact with the yeast. Sprinkle the mixture over your sponge and cover again. Let rise for 1-4 hours at room temperature.

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The starter will start to bubble through the flour. If you did not let your starter sit overnight then I would recommend letting it rise for a longer period (closer to the 4 hour mark) so the flavours can develop.

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Step Three: Add the rest of the dough ingredients to your bowl and beat everything (starter, flour mixture, other ingredients) with a dough hook (or by hand) for 3 minutes. The dough will become smooth. Remove the dough from the bowl and hand-knead on the counter for another minute, then round into a ball. Place the dough back in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for 1-2 hours.

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Step Four: Remove the dough and place on the counter. Gently, give it a light business letter turn (fold it into thirds like a letter, then repeat once more). Place back into a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for 45 minutes.

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Step Five: Remove the dough from the bowl and place on the counter. Gently press down and flatten it.

Step Six: Time to shape your dough! Decide if you are going to make a three-braided challah or a four-braided challah. Mine is a four-braided.

Divide your dough into 3 or 4 equal pieces (depending on your braid). It is best to cut it with a knife or scissors so you keep the gluten activated. Cover the pieces and let them relax for 10 minutes.

Step Seven: Roll each piece under your palms until it makes a long tube (13 inches or longer). Lift each tube and gently use your other hand to pull and stretch it even longer (until it is about 15 or 16 inches long). If the dough gets sticky, lightly flour it (and if the dough is too hard to work with, gently sprinkle it with water). Taper the ends of each tube so they are narrower.

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Step Eight: Join the top ends of the tubes by moistening with water and then pinching them all together. Gently tuck the top underneath to make your loaf look cleaner. Starting from the top, braid your tubes together. As you do so, you will need to check the tops every so often to make sure they are all still connected.

Here is a picture from the Bread Bible on how to make a braid with four tubes (I’m not going to even attempt how to explain this!).

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Once finished, combine the bottom ends and tuck under.

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Step Nine: Make the glaze and brush over the entire loaf. This is what will make it turn that beautiful brown colour. Cover the loaf and let it sit for 1 hour.

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Step Ten: Uncover your challah and glaze it again. Make sure you get all the nooks and crannies. Set it on a baking sheet or baking stone (I set mine on parchment paper on top of a baking stone). Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Step Eleven: Remove from the oven and tent with aluminum foil. Place back on the baking sheet or baking stone and bake for 35 minutes.

Step Twelve: Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

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