Easy to make enriched bread, with a hint of sweetness
Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked bread, right? Right. At least, not in my books. A close second is the smell of onions and garlic frying, but bread – still takes the first spot. I would say it takes the cake, but cake is another story altogether, so let’s not mix our metaphors today.
Baking. It seems to be the current favourite past time of the entire world population. Anyone and everyone are baking, anything from banana bread to traditional sourdough. I don’t think there are many homes who are not boasting about their potato-plant sourdough (we don’t have one. I feel so left out). But I did give in over Easter, baking this beautiful bread for the family to enjoy with a cup of tea. The kids “helped”, of course, although they were a bit miffed that they had to wait so long for it to rise. And then do a second proof. But in the end, they enjoyed it and they didn’t complain about it again. So obviously no permanent damage was done.
In short, challah is a very easy and straightforward bread to make. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil, while a bit of sugar adds some sweetness. It doesn’t require any fussy techniques and can be made from start to finish in the space of an afternoon. If you don’t want to do the traditional braiding, you don’t have to. simply form a loaf and bake it like that.
Mine came out a bit misshapen, courtesy of all the “help” I received 🙂
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Esrida Brits | 25 May 2020
- prep time: 2 hours
- cook time: 30-35 min
- total time: 2 hoours, 30 min, give or take
Servings: Makes 2 braided loaves
- 1 cup (250ml) lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons (30ml) active dry or instant yeast
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (30ml) salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
- 1/4 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil, such as canola
- Place the water in a small bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and a healthy pinch of sugar, and stir to combine. Let stand until you see a thin frothy layer form on the top, 5 to 10 minutes. This means that the yeast is active and ready to use. (If you do not see this or if your yeast won’t dissolve, it has likely expired and you’ll need to purchase new yeast.)
- Place 4 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. (Alternatively, use a large bowl and knead by hand.)
- Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs, egg yolk, and oil. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
- Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix the yeast, eggs, and flour with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
- Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes. Fit the mixer with the hook attachment and knead on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.) If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place somewhere warm. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you’d like to do. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 40cm long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and then try again.
- Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. If making a 3-stranded challah, braid the ropes together like braiding hair or yarn and squeeze the other ends together when complete.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top and sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place away from drafts until puffed and pillowy, about 1 hour.
- About 20 minutes before baking, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 180°C. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.
- Bake, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the challah is deeply browned and cooked through.
- Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm. Enjoy!
This bread is delicious. If you are acquainted with Afrikaans culture, challah is close to mosbolletjies in taste and texture. And just as easy to make. So give it a try!
See you soon!