When I was young, my talented mom made a lot of homemade bread. She made whole wheat sandwich bread, dill bread, homemade rolls and challah bread (sounds like hah-leh). She probably made other breads, too, but these are the ones that stand out in my memory.
When I finally started making bread as an adult, I decided to try my hand at challah bread, because it was a familiar to me, and it quickly became one of my favorites to make and eat.
It is a somewhat sweet egg bread, and because it is braided, the final product is gorgeous! You will feel like an absolute rockstar when it comes out of the oven! I used to make this a lot in my college apartment, and it was always a hit, and was eaten so very quickly. It is perfect to eat by itself, to use for sandwiches, served with butter and jam, and as a delicious base for grilled cheese.
Truly this bread is a wonder. It takes some time to make, but one of the things that I love about bread, is that there is very little hands-on time. You just need to be around to keep it moving to the next step, but there is ample time to do laundry, help kids with homework, or write a blog post between rises.
If you like homemade bread, you really ought to add this one to your arsenal of recipes. It is delicious! Happy Monday!
Also, on a totally unrelated note, I selected the winners from my Instagram giveaway last week. They were: @ebee333, @eskolrood, @onwhomtorely, and @auntbeckj! Congratulations to the winners, and thank you everyone else for participating! I really appreciate you all!
If you are super bummed that you didn't win, you should probably make this bread as a consolation prize. Homemade bread does wonders!
Braided Challah Bread:
adapted slightly from the Williams-Sonoma Bread Cookbook
makes 2 medium-sized loaves of braided bread
4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (divided)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbs active dry yeast
4 Tbs granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil or olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs butter
Put 3 cups of flour in a stand mixer, if you have one (it will work fine in a plain mixing bowl, too). Use the paddle attachment. Form a well in the center of the flour. Pour the water into the well in the flour.
Sprinkle the yeast, and a tablespoon of sugar over the water. Let stand for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is foamy.
Add the remaining tablespoons of sugar, the eggs, oil and salt. Mix well until a shaggy dough begins to form. Add the remaining flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the paddle attachment, and use the dough hook at this point. Knead on low speed for a 4-5 minutes, adding more flour, as needed, 1 Tbs at a time. Note: you may not need all the flour, or your dough may need a little extra. Play it by feel. The dough should be soft and elastic, and no longer leave little bits on your hands when you finish kneading.
I find that it is hard to tell the when the dough is ready in a stand mixer (it often ends up sticky), so sometimes I will take the mixer bowl off the stand mixer, and add flour, kneading by hand until the dough is no longer sticky, but smooth and elastic.
One your dough has reached the soft and non-sticky stage, remove it from the bowl and place it in a greased bowl, flip the dough over, so the top and bottom are greased. Cover it with a greased piece of plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Carefully deflate your dough with your hand. Turn it over, cover it, and let it rise again until doubled, another hour, or so.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat. Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting board, or clean dry surface, and divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Set aside 3 of the pieces for a minute.
Take the remaining 3 pieces and roll them out into long skinny snake-like pieces, about 14" long, and about 1" diameter through the middle of the snake. Place the three ropes parallel to each other and pinch the three pieces together at one end.
Braid the ropes together to form a loaf. Once you finish braiding it, pinch the 3 end pieces together. Tuck both pinched ends of the bread under the loaf, just enough to hide the ends, and to keep them from coming unbraided.
Repeat with the other loaf, and place both of them on baking sheet, leaving a few inches between the loaves.
Cover with a damp towel and let the bread rise until doubles in size, another 30-40 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes. If you are worried about it being cooked all the way through, leave it in until it is deeply golden.
Remove from the oven, and let cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10. Serve while warm.