I'm calling this just 'Challah Bread' but in reality, it's a bread of many names.
To name a few...
- The Comeback Challah
- The Trying to Use Up Eggs Challah
- The Challah Where I Forgot How to Braid
- The Challah that Grew
- The Photography Struggle Challah
I expected to be a little rusty making my first bread in almost 6 months (because it's too dang hot to make bread in the summer). There's a lot of tactile stuff that goes on when making bread. Unlike regular baking, bread making is a lot more intuitive. You gotta feel when the bread has just enough flour, when it has kneaded enough and when it has risen enough. And all of these things vary on the weather. Bread is alive because of the yeast and it can be quite temperamental sometimes.
We all have the days when things turn out just the way you expected or even better. My particular favorite breads within the last year were this lemon pull apart bread, these buns, and this green onion challah by Molly Yeh.
Trying things a second time around can always get a bit hairy. We hope it will be just as good as the first time or phenomenally better but that's not always the case. I wouldn't say this particular bread was necessarily a flop. Oh, those true flops will debut at the end of the year so be prepared! It still turned out soft and fluffy as challah should be but I have high expectations when it comes to bread. I know it could have had a softer texture and it could have looked more pretty. The bread wasn't all to blame but rather human error.
So, I have complete faith that it will turn out well for you because...
Here are some tips when it comes to making this challah:
- Unless you are planning on feeding a small army versus 2 people, stick with the portion of the recipe I've given below. I chose challah because it uses more eggs than normal bread and I was trying to use up eggs. This also meant that the rest of the ingredients were doubled as well.
- More dough results in a more difficult to knead bread. i.e. see Tip #1.
- Knead, knead, knead! If you are looking for that lovely, layered pull apart texture in challah knead it until smooth and elastic. i.e. see Tip #2. If you're wondering what I mean by smooth and elastic, check out these tips.
- Stick with a traditional 3 braid or a loaf or buns or a large swirl. I was trying to get all fancy and make a Jacob's Ladder and a Fishtail Braid but somehow braiding bread is a lot more difficult that braiding hair. But if you're confident about it, definitely pull out those fancy braids!
- Make sure your oven is the right temperature before putting your bread in. In the recipe below I suggest baking it for 10 minutes at 25 degrees higher than normal and then reducing it to the noted temperature.
- I had very little all-purpose flour and had to use mostly bread flour which resulted in a texture that was more chewy and firm rather than soft and pillowy. I'd suggest using only all-purpose flour for challah.
And let's begin!
First we start off by proofing the yeast in warm water with a little sugar. Read a more in depth troubleshooting tutorial here.
Then, mix in the eggs, salt, sugar, oil and the rest of the water until combined.
Next, it's time to work those biceps! Beat in half of the flour until you create a smooth batter.
Gradually add the rest of the flour until you have a soft, tacky dough.
Turn out on a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. This should take about 10-12 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until tripled in bulk.
Punch down the dough to release the air bubbles, turn out on a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
To shape, divide dough into 3 equal portions. Roll into 3 smooth 16" ropes and braid tightly together. Gently place your challah braid on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Cover again with plastic wrap and a damp towel and let rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
Brush with the egg wash and place in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
In the end, it really doesn't matter how beautiful your braids are. As you can see, the braids got lost in the ones I made. And when it's cut, it all tastes the same like no braid catastrophe ever occurred.
And if all else fails, return to your childhood and make french toast sticks.
Yields: 1 Large Loaf // Active time: 1 hour // Inactive time: 2 1/2 hours