05 September 2010

Challah

This is what happens when you don't apply a second coat of egg wash halfway through baking.

Look, there's bread on breadwinesalt!

If you've never made yeast bread, this is a good place to start.  It's a very forgiving dough, and the results are both beautiful and delicious.    The key is to knead it thoroughly.  I almost never measure flour when I'm making bread, because I do it enough that I can feel when there's enough flour.  If you're just starting out I recommend adding in the minimum amount of flour and then adding more as you knead, just a sprinkle at a time.  When the kneading is done you'll have added enough flour.

These are braided round loaves with the second coat of egg wash. Much prettier.


2.5 cups water, wrist temperature
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
4 Tablespoons softened butter or olive oil
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 Tablespoon salt
8-9 cups all-purpose flour

Clean an area of your countertop large enough to knead bread.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast, honey and water.  Beat 100 times with a large wooden spoon.  Add butter or oil, egg yolks, and salt and mix again until thoroughly combined.  Add flour, about a cup at time, beating between additions, until the dough is too stiff to stir.

Sprinkle about 1 cup of flour in a circle about 1 foot in diameter on your immaculately clean countertop.  Drop the dough out of the mixing bowl into the flour, sprinkle some flour from the counter onto the top of the dough and flour your hands.   Begin kneading by pushing the dough away from you, then turning the dough 90 degrees and folding it in half.  Continue pushing and folding until the dough begins to stick to your hands or the counter.

Sprinkle the dough and your hands with flour again, and continue kneading for 20 minutes, adding small quantities of flour as necessary.

When you are finished kneading, form the dough into a ball and leave it on the counter and scrub out your mixing bowl, first in cool water and then with hot.  Dry with a clean kitchen towel. Coat the inside of the bowl lightly in butter or oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and flip once so that all sides of the dough are oiled.  Place the mixing bowl in a warm place and cover with the damp towel.  Allow the dough to rise undisturbed until it has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour depending on temperature.

Clean your counter again.

When the dough has finished rising, sprinkle the counter very lightly with flour and dump the dough out onto the floured surface.  Knead for another 20 minutes, adding small amounts of flour only as necessary.  If you are kneading by hand you are very unlikely to over-knead the dough.

When you're finished kneading divide the loaves in half and shape the loaves.  The braid, above is the classic Challah shape.  Divide each half of the dough into thirds and roll out into snakes about 18 inches long.  Line up the snakes and braid.  I find it easiest to start the braid in the middle and work to the end, then turn the dough around and braid the other side, this time passing strands under the braid instead of over.  Tuck the edges under enough to make it pretty.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.  Place the loaves on baking sheets, cover and allow to rise approximately one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat one egg and brush (or, if you have lost your brush, ahem, use your clean fingers, they work great) the egg all over the top of the loaves.  (Wash your hands)  Bake for approximately 40 minutes, rotating the loaves and applying a second coat of egg wash, about halfway through baking, until the crust is dark brown and the other people in your house are begging for it to be done already.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before breaking out the bread knife.

If you happen to have leftovers the next day, this makes excellent French toast.

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