I always have these grand notions of baking bread. I have a mile-long list (mental, of course) of breads that I've been wanting to try to make. Challah, bagels, croissants, brioche, sourdough, baguettes...you name it, it's probably on there. I add to this list with the best of intentions. You know how it goes...
Oh man, I'm totally gonna try to make [some kind of bread] this weekend. Wait, it's supposed to be hot. Do I really want to turn the oven on? And how long do I have to set aside for this venture? SIX HOURS??? Are you serious? Forget it. I'll wait til winter when I have nothing better to do.
But as I found myself craving french toast a couple of weeks ago (and everyone knows stale challah makes the BEST french toast...) I figured it was time to check at least one of those bread recipes off my list.
And you know what? It really wasn't that time consuming. But it was most definitely delicious, and so worth it. Trying to make the double braid is totally the best part. Well, that and the part where the night after I made it, I let a few slices sit in the fridge (uncovered) overnight and woke up to perfectly stale (who would've thought you could use those two words in the same sentence??) challah that I promptly turned into french toast.
Oh, and...there are no aerial-view pictures of the full loaf. My non-superior braiding skills made it look a little...phallic.
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted to make one double-braided loaf (Deb's recipe makes two)
3/4 TB active dry yeast
1/4 cup + 1 TB sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
3 large eggs (one is for the egg wash)
1/2 TB table salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1/2 TB of sugar in 3/4 + 1/8 cups lukewarm water (i.e. a little less than a cup).
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Switch to your dough hook, and gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. Be kind to your mixer. You should never turn it on a high speed while trying to knead dough.
- Knead dough in mixer until smooth (at least 5-7 minutes, probably longer). The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Grease a large clean bowl, then add dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
- Form the loaf: To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together.
- Place braided loaf on a greased cookie sheet (I just lined my sheet with parchment, which worked fine too.)
- Beat remaining egg with a TB of water, and brush it on loaf. Let loaf rise for another hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaf again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using.
- Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.)
- Cool loaf on a rack.