Challah Bread

It has been a few months since I have shared a new post. I wanted to take some time to focus on my family. One of the things I did during this time was to help my dad find out some information about his ancestors. He had asked for my help early last fall. My dad’s mother was adopted, so he wasn’t sure what her background was. Although, he always suspected that her ancestors may have been jewish. To confirm his suspicions, I had an ancestry DNA test done on my dad. He was right!! The test showed that he is almost half European Jewish. It was such a wonderful thing for him and my family to find out this information. It is such a great feeling to be able to connect who we are to our past. This knowledge does not change who we are now, yet it gives us a connection to where we came from. To celebrate these new findings, I decided I needed to learn to make a traditional jewish bread called Challah bread. I have heard of it many times, but had never tried it. I turned to one of my most trusted recipe and ingredient sources of all time, King Arthur Flour. Now, a traditional jewish Challah bread is made using a 6 stranded braid. However, I was new at making this, so I decided to go with the four stranded braid. It turned out beautifully.

To test my new recipe, I made a loaf of challah bread one afternoon in December.  When my kids arrived home from school, the smell alone drove them to beg me for a taste. I was honestly quite pleasantly surprised at how delicious this bread is. It is a little sweet and has an incredibly soft and fluffy texture. Each of my children ate two pieces back to back of that first loaf. I am usually in charge of bringing bread or rolls to my families holiday celebrations. I decided that this year, I would bring Challah bread in honor of our new found ancestry. When I brought the bread to my parents house and explained what it was to my dad, he immediately hugged and kissed me. I do believe that he was truly touched by this simple gesture. What a blessing to be able to bless my family and my dad with this simple act of making a loaf of delicious bread! I also brought a loaf to my husband’s families holiday festivities.

I have recently made two loves in the past couple of weeks. This Challah bread is delicious toasted and served with butter and jam. It also makes wonderful ham sandwiches! My newly found way to use the challah bread is to make french toast with it. OMG!!! It is amazing! As I ate my challah bread french toast, I imagined how delicious it would be in a french toast casserole. I also thought how delicious it would be to add a bit of cinnamon and sugar to the loaf itself before baking…oh the possibilities! I froze a half of one of the recent loaves of bread that I made. I will update this post in the near future when I use that frozen loaf to determine if the bread freezes well.

Challah Bread

QUICK STARTER
1 cup (4 1/4 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
DOUGH
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) vegetable oil
2 large eggs + 1 yolk (save 1 egg white for the glaze, below)
GLAZE
1 egg white, saved from above
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) water

Instructions

To make the starter:

  1. Mix the 1 cup flour, 1 cup water and yeast together in a large bowl or the bucket of a bread machine.

2. Let the mixture sit for about 45 minutes.

To make the dough:

  1. Add the dough ingredients to the starter and mix and knead together — by hand, mixer or bread machine — until a smooth, supple dough is formed. The dough should not be too sticky. If it is sticky, add 1-2 TBS of flour at a time while kneading. Each time I have made this dough, I have had to add extra flour. However, that all depends on the environment that you live in.
  2. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it over once to coat it lightly with oil.

3. Cover it and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until it’s not quite doubled in size.

To shape the dough:

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over once or twice, to expel the carbon dioxide. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll each into a snake about 18″ long.


On the lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, braid a four-strand braid.

First, Squeeze the ends of the strands together.

Take the left-handed strand and move it to the right over two strands

Then take that same strand and move it under one strand to the left

Next, take the right handed strand and move it to the left over 2 strands

Then take that strand and move it under one strand to the right.

Repeat until the loaf is done and pinch the ends together.

 

In a small bowl, make the glaze by mixing together the reserved egg white, sugar, and water. Brush the loaf, reserving some for a second application.
Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s almost doubled in size. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.


To bake the loaf:

Brush the loaf with the remaining glaze (this will give the finished loaf a beautiful, shiny crust.) If desired, sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seed, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the challah is golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and the internal temperature is 195°F.
Remove the bread from the oven, and cool completely before slicing.
Store completely cool bread, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

Baking Tips:

  • When proofing dough (or letting it rise) be sure you place the dough in a warm, draft free environment. I like to use my oven for this. I turn my oven light on to warm it up a tiny bit. I also place a small bowl of warm water in the oven to keep the bread dough from drying out.
  • Don’t afraid of yeast breads! Give this one a try. The rising times are just a guide. Be sure your dough has doubled in size. If it has not doubled by the suggested time, check it every ten minutes

Bake and Share Ideas:

  1. Bake a loaf for a new mom, new neighbor, or use as a hostess gift. Put the loaf in a basket with all the fixings for making french toast along with syrup and jam.
  2. Bake a loaf for valentine’s day. Slice the bread then cut it into heart shapes. Use the heart shaped bread to make sandwiches or heart shaped french toast for your sweethearts!
  3. Bake a loaf of challah bread. Slice it horizontally (like one large sub sandwich) and layer lettuce, tomato, cheese, and ham on the bottom of the bread. Place the top of the loaf on the lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Slice and serve! Bring this to a friend, family member, or neighbor in need of a meal, or serve at your next gathering.

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