This is my third, and probably favorite, venture into challah bread. There are a bazillion benefits to baking this Jewish pantry staple over, say, regular wheat or white bread, not the least of which are a) getting to practice your braiding skills b) the sweetness from the addition of eggs and sugar and c) the restaurant-worthy French toast you’ll have the following morning.
The vanilla bean simply served to intrigue, both before and after trying the final product. It’s almost a faint afterthought, tipping the bread from savory to sweet on just a matter of taste buds. Eating it warmed with butter for breakfast is akin to starting your morning with dessert, and that is always a great decision. (Having had my coffee with a piece of bundt cake today, it’s also probably a healthier decision.)
A note on braiding: if you’ve never made challah bread before, try watching this video for a few tips on how to go about it. Most important is to start your braid in the middle, braiding down, then flipping the loaf and repeating the process. The original recipe called for a six-strand braid, but that is far, far too ambitious for me and a bowl of flimsy dough. But, do as you wish.
VANILLA BEAN CHALLAH BREAD
(adapted from Always Order Dessert)
1 package active dry yeast
½ cup agave nectar
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
Proof the yeast by placing entire packet in one cup warm water. Let sit until bubbling, about five minutes.
Mix in olive oil, agave, eggs and salt. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into mixture. Using a dough hook or by hand, knead in the flour, one cup at a time until even dough forms.
Knead onto floured surface for an additional 2-3 minutes. Coat medium-sized bowl with olive oil and place dough in bowl, making sure to coat entirely in oil. Cover with a warm towel and let set for two hours.
Remove from bowl and knead onto floured surface. Separate into three even pieces and roll into long strips of about 12 inches (see photo.) Set beside one another and, starting in the middle, braid to the bottom of the loaf, tucking the ends into the bottom and rolling them together. Flip loaf upside down and braid the other half. Let set for an additional half hour to rise.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden-brown on top.