Blog Checking Lines: May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Tast of Challah” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.
Challah is a bread of celebration in Jewish tradition. What makes it really stand out is the fancy braided shapes. Braiding is an intertwining of separate pieces into a combined entity. This is symbolic of the intertwining of the everyday and the holy, and of the coming together of family and friends. The bread can be braided into three, four, rounded four or six stranded loaves. Challah can also be shaped in other ways for different Jewish holidays.
For this challenge, we were required to make a shaped, enriched bread. For variety, we were allowed to add various fillings. While I’ve tasted Challah plenty of times, I’ve never made it and I seldom shape my breads so this was a fun thing to try. I chose to make the Honey White Challah, adding 1/2 cup cinnamon chips (more next time), and shaping it into a six-stranded braid using the process in a helpful video from Fine Cooking. It was a little challenging at first. I soon got the hang of it after a few false starts and I was thrilled with the results! I also sprinkled the top with pearl sugar for decoration which stands out nicely on the browned top.
This particular recipe was lovely to work with and produced a very tender, soft and lightly sweet bread. Though at it’s best the day it’s baked, I was surprised how long it lasted (a good thing since this recipe makes two giant loaves!). I suspect the honey works as a preservative in this particular recipe which keeps it from molding and getting too hard and dry. Leftovers make great French Toast or bread pudding and of course are just fine as regular toast.
- 1 1⁄2 cups (360 ml) warm water, separated
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) (15 gm/1⁄2 oz sugar
- 2 Tbsp. (2-2/3 packets) (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) dry active yeast
- 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) honey
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) oil (light colored vegetable oil, or olive oil if you prefer)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. 71⁄2 ml) (9 gm) (1/3 oz) salt
- 5 cups (1200 ml) (700 gm/25 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
- In mixer bowl/large mixing bowl combine 1⁄2 cup warm water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. yeast. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
- To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead until smooth (by hand or mixer) adding flour as needed. Knead approximately 10 minutes.
- Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
- Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf (shaped or braided as desired).
- Place loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted.)
- Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done.
- Cool on wire racks.