(The ‘C’ is Silent) Challah Bread!

I love to bake fresh bread and usually opt for the single rise, no-knead, bake in a cast iron skillet versions. Everything else seems to take forever when you do not own a bread machine. As winter storm Ivan rolled on through Pittsburgh yesterday, I found myself bored after brunch. I had the entire day to dedicate to creating something delicious. Why not bake a loaf(ves) of bread?

For this baking adventure, I found inspiration after a quick flip through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook at Williams-Sonoma coupled with too much time spent in Squirrel Hill. I had been wanting to bake Challah after learning how to properly pronounce the name (last week). The ‘c’ is silent, in case you did not know! Upon researching various recipes and braiding methods, I discovered that this bread has a historical/biblical significance besides being a traditional Jewish bread. Traditionally, a double loaf is baked out of one batch of dough. Each loaf has 6 strands, totaling 12 & representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Thanks, Wikipedia!

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Reverting back to the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, my attention was grabbed by a beautiful loaf of fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah. I decided to move up 5 steps on the bread baking pyramid and attempt something of this delicious magnitude. Adapted from here.

Rosemary, Apple, Walnut Challah with Goat Cheese (+1 Regular Challah)

3 3/4 tsp dry active yeast

1 tbs + 1/2 cup sugar

1 3/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup olive oil

5 large eggs

1 tbs salt

8-8 1/2 cups flour

filling: 4 oz goat cheese, 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts, juice of 1/4 lemon, 2 small granny smith apples (peeled, cored, cubed), 2 tsp rosemary, pinch of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp sugar

  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tbs sugar in lukewarm water. Set aside for about 5 minutes until foamy.
  2. Whisk in olive oil, then, one at a time, beat in 4 eggs. Beat in the remaining sugar and salt. ImageImageImage
  3. Gradually add in flour, cup by cup. If using a mixer, the dough hook attachment will save you quite the arm workout. Sadly enough, my hand mixer croaked in the midst, even with the dough hook attachment.
  4. This is my favorite part! KNEAD dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Return to your rinsed and greased mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise for one hour.  ****************************The rest of this recipe involves a lot of waiting around*****************************2 episodes of Mad Men to be exact****************************** ImageImageImageImage
  5. By this point, your dough should have doubled in size. Using a pastry cutter, divide the dough in 2. Double loaves! For regular challah: punch down the dough, set in another greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set aside for 30 more minutes of rising. For stuffed challah: flatten into an oblong shape with your hands, cover half with filling, fold over, and repeat a few times. Form into a ball shape and set aide for 30 more minutes of rising.
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  6. Divide each ball further into 4 parts. Roll each part into a rope.
  7. BRAIDING. Lay your 4 ropes perpendicular to each other, forming a #hashtag. Weave them so that one rope is over and the other is under (see photos below). The rest of the weaving is not too tricky, though I honestly had no idea what I was doing. As long as you keep with the under and over weaving pattern and tuck the awkward ends underneath the loaf it should come out fine. ImageImageImageImageImageImage
  8. In a small cup, beat your last remaining egg. Brush each loaf generously with egg wash and allow to rise for 30 more minutes.
  9. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Before baking your bread, brush generously one last time with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans at the halfway mark. Your loves should be a nice golden brown color and your kitchen should smell amazing. ImageImageImageImage

I brought the stuffed loaf over to my friends Lauren & Chase’s house for our family dinner. I thought there was going to be a lot leftover, but the three of us easily consumed half of this loaf. I love the way you can just pull this bread apart. It is lightly sweetened and makes a great breakfast companion, too!

I think I can say I am no longer intimidated by bread making. I actually find the entire process to be more therapeutic than brain frazzling. The process is long and drawn out, rather lazy and perfect for a lazy, snowed in weekend. ImageImage

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