Bake on Saturday, Lunch & Dinner, Recipes

Bake on Saturday: Braided Egg Bread (Challah)

Gorgeous crusty, chewy egg bread braids that are sure to please.

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Perhaps the most well-known type of egg bread is challah, a traditional Jewish braided loaf served on the Sabbath and on holidays.  Though I’m not Jewish, I have always thought challah was wonderful.  I remember asking to go to the Jewish bakery nearby so we could buy challah when I was little.  And who wouldn’t beg to do that?  Challah is dense, egg-y, slightly sweet, and very pretty to look at.  It also makes great French toast.

Bread after baking

Joy of Cooking‘s version is an egg bread/challah.  It isn’t as egg-y as some challah recipes, like this one that I made last year, which uses three egg yolks for a really egg-y flavor and a bright yellow color.  Nonetheless, Joy of Cooking has a great basic recipe for egg bread.

I followed their instructions practically to the T.  Times when I work with yeast are the times I follow recipes most vigilantly, as I still don’t have the knack some people possess for telling when bread is finished rising and ready to be shaped or go into the oven.  Have no fear, though!  Making your own bread is extremely satisfying, and there are plenty of resources out there for all your yeast related questions, from Joy of Cooking to Alton Brown’s sock puppets (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, please, please go watch some episodes of Good Eats).

But back to the recipe: I simply swapped all-purpose white flour for white whole wheat and made five small loaves instead of two large loaves.  I did the latter just as a time saving device.  On the same night I made soup, I decided I wanted to have it with fresh bread.  Unfortunately, I made this decision at 4:45 in the afternoon, not leaving me much time before dinner.  Small loaves take only about half an hour to bake, whereas large loaves take a full 60 minutes.  By making five small loaves instead of two large, I cut off half an hour of bake time.  We still had dinner late, but we had delicious fresh bread, which I think makes up for a late meal.

Braided Egg Bread (Challah)

Adapted from Joy of Cooking.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages active dry yeast (scant 2 T)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 6 cups sifted flour (I used white whole wheat), plus extra for kneading
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 T sugar
  • Egg wash (Read about various egg washes here.  Choose your favorite.  I used a whole egg with no water or milk, which produces a pale but shiny crust.)

Instructions

Pour yeast, sugar, and the first measurement of warm water (1/4 cup) into a large bowl.  Stir once or twice, then let sit for about five minutes, allowing the yeast to foam/bubble/wake up.  Stir in the flour, salt, water, beaten eggs, canola oil, and sugar.  Knead for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl.  Cover and set in a warm place and allow to rise for one hour.

After an hour, turn the dough onto a clean, floured surface.  Knead briefly, then separate the dough into the number of loaves you want to make (e.g. 5, as I did).

Working with one loaf’s worth of dough at a time, separate it into three sections and braid as you would normally, but tucking both ends under.  Sometimes challah is baked in a circular braid (this is trickier) or in a turban (picture a snail-shell).  Place on greased cookie sheets.  Let rise again for about another 45 minutes.

After about 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Brush loaves with your egg wash.  If you have no pastry brush and aren’t squeamish, just use your fingers–it works so much better than the back of a spoon!

Bake at 400, then turn the oven down to 375.  If you are making large loaves (e.g. 2 or 3), the baking time will be about 15 minutes at 400 and 45 at 375.  For smaller loaves it will be 10 minutes about 400 and 20-25 at 375.  Bread is done when it sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom of the loaf (but be careful picking it up!).

My dad used to make whole wheat sandwich bread every weekend.  Do you have any fond memories of baking bread from your childhood?

Posted to Serendipity and Spice’s Manic Monday!

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6 thoughts on “Bake on Saturday: Braided Egg Bread (Challah)”

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