If I ever had to choose between bread or meat, bread would win hands down.
I mean hands waaaay down. Like bottom of Crater Lake down.
And my favorite bread of all time (other than Hawaiian sweet rolls) is challah.
First, a caveat: I’ve never made challah before. If I offend anyone by butchering this recipe, I apologize in advance. Or blame Cooking Light.
If you’ve never made it before, follow along with me. We’ll learn together.
Grab your dry ingredients:
Salt, 1 packet active dry yeast, corn meal, and bread flour.
You’ll also need 3 tablespoons butter and two eggies.
And finally, honey and cooking spray.
Cooking Light also asks for poppy seeds (for sprinkling on top) and saffron (which I didn’t have). If you’ve got those things, add ’em to the list.
Oh, and also, fair warning: this is a yeast bread. It needs time to rise (at several different points in the recipe). I would do it on a day when you’ll be at home most of the time, preferably watching a Jersey Shore marathon.
First, pour a cup of warm water into a big ol’ bowl. Pour in the packet of yeast and stir it up until the yeast dissolves.
Add 3 tablespoons of honey and stir. Wait 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter and let it cool.
Mental note: don’t use this dang red bowl again. It photographs horribly.
Next, add the butter…
…one of the eggs…
…and 1 teaspoon salt.
Whisk it on up.
Now add 2 3/4 cups of flour (lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with a knife)…
…and stir until a dough begins to form.
Gorgeous, dahling. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let stand for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, you can prepare a floured surface and spray another bowl (non-metal, please, for the bread’s sake) with cooking spray.
Oh, doughy goodness. Turn it out onto your floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes, or until it’s smooth and elastic. Add flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough no longer sticks to your hands (add no more than 1/4 cup total).
Set that lump-o-dough into your sprayed bowl and give it a turn so the cooking spray coats the whole durn thing.
Cover and let sit in a warm place (I set it on top of a radiator, but on top of a running dryer or oven would work well too) for about 40 minutes or until it’s doubled in size. From my limited bread-making experience, may I just say that a warm place is very flippin important.
If you’re not sure whether it’s risen enough, poke two fingers into the dough. If the indentations remain, it’s all good. If not, let it rise more.
Once your dough has doubled in size, punch it down, reshape into a ball, set it back in the bowl, cover, and let rise another 40 minutes (or until it’s doubled. Again.).
Whew. Almost there. Notice how it’s getting yellower? That’s the yeast, baby.
Once it’s doubled for the second time, punch it down, re-cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Turn it out onto your floured surface again.
Divide into 3 (roughly) equal portions…
…and roll each portion into a 25 inch rope.
Sprinkle a little cornmeal onto a baking sheet and throw those ropes onto it. Pinch the ends together on one side.
Braid, mush the ends together, and hurry up and wait. Again.
Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Now would be a good time to preheat your oven. 375°, please.
See? A TV marathon (or a laundry marathon, if you’re ambitious) is the key to making good challah.
Remember that other egg I asked you to have? Way back when it was still 2009?
Yeah, that one. Separate the yolk, beat it up and mix in 1 teaspoon water.
Gently brush it on top of that gorgeous loaf. If you had poppy seeds, now is the time you’d want to sprinkle them on.
Now we’re finally ready to bake, my friends. Stick it in the oven for 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap it. Let cool for a bit on a wire rack.
Dang, that’s a good lookin’ loaf-o-bread.
Now you see why it’s a labor of love, this bread. Cuz it’s purdy…
…and taaasty. The flavor of challah is not like any other bread–it’s sweet but not sugary, yeasty but not tangy, and moist but not dense.
It’s simply perfect.
I slurp it up with a little butter on top, or you could eat it plain. It would also go nicely with a meal–make it instead of rolls.
Happy 3rd Day of Bakemas!
You can see the recipe from Cooking Light that I used (with a few variations) right here.