For one reason or another, somewhere along the line my blog became synonymous with challah bread. While I would love to believe this is the result of a stretch of time spotted by many loaves of vanilla bean challah bread (and vanilla bean challah bread French toast), I have a hunch that it actually stems from one roommate’s drunken, but spot-on, impression of the almost laughable amount of time I spent in the kitchen when I first started, caught on camera and remembered to this day. Either way, challah bread remains very much a part of On Food and Baking and I’m both pleased and proud to consider its recreation “upholding tradition.” Of some sort.
For a girl with a sweet-tooth, pouring 2/3 cup of honey into this a swirling bowl of egg yolks couldn’t have been more satisfying. (Also, in case you’ve ever wondered about the differences between grass-fed chicken and grain-fed, check out the eggs below. The one on the left came from a chick who pecked her way around a yard and stocked up on some serious beta-carotene. The other two are store-bought, and I have no idea what their food contained. Still. Impressively different.) The beauty of a flaky, eggy challah loaf is its dessert-like air–dense, slightly buttery, somewhat sugary. Spread with the right condiment, it hardly feels like bread.
I will say that chopped apples made braiding this load far more difficult than it needed to be. Rolling out each braid, apples began creeping through the sides and onto the floured countertop. Soon I had amassed a pile, never to be added back into the loaf and discarded shortly thereafter. So, for what it’s worth, either braid better, or use less apples.
The final product was, predictably, sweet, textural and totally worth the three hours it took to get there. Still steaming from the oven and paired with a botched batch of strawberry-lime jam made the day prior (it never…jammed), I’d say this loaf served its springtime-dessert role quite well. I’m not sure what my next venture back into tradition will be, but I hope it’s very, very soon.
(via Smitten Kitchen)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup oil, plus more for the bowl
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/4 cups all-purpose bread flour plus more for your work surface
2 medium baking apples, peeled, cored and into 3/4-inch chunks
1 large egg for egg wash
Whisk yeast and 1 teaspoon honey into 2/3 cup warm water and let stand until foamy, a few minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together yeast mixture, oil, remaining honey, eggs and yolk. Gradually add flour and need by hand about 5-10 minutes, untill smooth, elastic and sticky. Transfer dough to large oil-coated bowl, cover with a warm towel and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.
Turn dough out onto a floured counter and gently press it down into a flat, oblong shape. Spread 2/3 of apple chunks over 1/2 of the flattened dough. Fold the other half over the apple chunks and press the dough down around them, flattening the now lumpy dough. Spread the remaining 1/3 apple chunks over half the folded dough. Fold the other half over the apples, pressing the dough down again. Fold the corners under with the sides of your hands and form the dough into a round. Place back into bowl and set aside for another 30 minutes.
Divide dough into four pieces. Roll and stretch each one as carefully as you can into a rope. Arrange two strands in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a plus sign. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet. So, now you’ve got an 8-legged woven-headed octopus. Take the four legs that come from underneath the center and move them over the leg to their right, i.e. jumping it. Take those legs that were on the right and again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left. Tuck the corners/odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round.
Transfer the dough to a parchment-covered heavy baking sheet. Beat egg until smooth and brush over challah. Let challah rise for another hour.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake in middle of oven for 40 to 45 minutes. It should be beautifully bronzed; if yours starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time.