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Saturday, October 2

Challah Bread

Night before last, I posted pics of some Challah bread that I made.  The response to that post has been surprising...I've had quite a few people contact me asking when I'd have the recipe posted, because they got hungry looking at the pictures!!  Well, I'm not gonna keep you guys waiting any longer.

Challah is a very rich bread.  My version contains eggs, butter, and honey.  It isn't sweet, however...it's just a nuance within the whole.  It's a bread rich in history, as well.  Traditionally, this bread is served at the beginning of the Sabbath in kosher Jewish households.  According to their beliefs, the bread represents the manna that fell when the Jews were wandering in the wilderness after their escape from slavery.  Typically, two loaves are made at a time, and the recipe I'll give you does just that. 

Let's get to it, shall we?

CHALLAH BREAD

1 3/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
1/2 cup honey
2 packages active dry yeast (if you have a jar of yeast, use 4 1/2 teaspoons)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon salt
7 1/2-8 cups bread flour OR 8-8 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon water

The easiest way to make this is in a stand mixer.  However, since not everyone has one, my directions will reflect hand mixing, with stand mixer instructions in italics.

In a large bowl, stir together the 1 3/4 cups water, honey, and yeast.  Let stand about 10 minutes or until foamy.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the 4 eggs, melted butter, and salt.  Once blended, begin adding the flour, 2 cups at a time, completely incorporating each set, until you have as much in as you can by hand.  Turn dough out onto floured surface, and knead by hand, adding the remaining flour until the dough is moderately soft, and smooth and elastic in feel...this takes at least 5-7 minutes.  Shape into a ball, and place in a large greased bowl, turning dough to coat the surface all over.  Cover and allow to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.

In stand mixer, make yeast mixture, wait 10 minutes (or until foamy), then add the 4 eggs, melted butter, and salt, then add 2 cups flour at a time.  Continue adding flour until ALL is mixed in, scraping sides of bowl with a spatula.  With the stand mixer on med-low speed, continue allowing the dough to be worked until it's very flexible looking, and only barely sticky (about 3 minutes, you may have to add a tiny bit of extra flour during this process, but never more than 1/2 cup).  Turn dough into a large greased bowl, making sure to coat the entire surface of the dough with the grease.  Cover and allow to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until doubled. 

Punch dough down.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide into 6 portions.  Cover, let rest for another 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly grease a large baking sheet (jelly roll pan works well for this), and set aside.

Working with one portion at a time, divide each into 3 pieces (you'll end up with 18 pieces before it's done).  Gently roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long.  Lay the 3 ropes side by side, and braid them together (just like you would hair).  Pinch the ends together once done, sealing the braid.  Make 3 braids for each loaf of bread (6 braids total).

Assemble the loaves: Lay 2 braids side by side on the baking sheet, and lightly pinch the ends of the 2 braids together.  Lay a 3rd braid on top of the center of the 2, and again, pinch the ends to seal.  Repeat process for second loaf.  Cover and allow to rise for about 30 minutes, until it's almost doubled again.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining egg and the tablespoon of water.  Using a pastry brush (or your fingers, though this is really messy), lightly coat the entire top and sides of the loaves with the egg wash.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until bread has a very nice golden brown color, and sounds hollow when lightly tapped.  Immediately remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.

For pictures of what the loaves look like before and after baking, see my post "I Gotta Share!!"  ENJOY!!!

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