Let me preface this by saying I've never done this before. I don't have any fancy scales yet so you'll have to deal with my barbaric cup measurements.
The bread thread had my mouth watering from the first click. The Challah bread looked especially good and I've had it before so I decided to make that. It traditionally has honey in it but my wife's parents harvest maple syrup annually and we just got a huge shipment of it from them so I used that instead.
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup mild honey
How you make it:
Before you do anything, sift your flour. You get a much better end product and it takes two seconds.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast and 1/4 cup of the flour, then whisk in the warm water until its smooth. Let the yeast mixture stand uncovered for like 20 minutes.
Next, in a separate bowl, whisk the 3 eggs, salt, oil, and honey together so that it's smooth.
Blend into the puffed yeast blend until the mixture is well incorporated. You'll notice that the yeast go hog wild on the new delicious sugar.
With your hands, stir in the remaining 3 1/4 cups flour all at once. When the mixture is a rough ball dump it out onto the counter and knead it until smooth. The girl I got the recipe from said not to kneed it any longer than five minutes so I kneeded like a motherfucker for three minutes. I found that the dough had good substance and wasn't sticky at all.
Place the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
Wait about two hours or until it doubles. I just set a timer and watched some TV until it went off. While it's rising you should do your damn dishes. Dough left in a bowl over night becomes brick like.
After two hours of rising your dough should be doubled in size.
Knock the dough down to get a lot of the air out of it.
Through research I found that there are many ways to weave a Challah bread but I chose the three-weave because in all of the pictures I looked at the three weave had the most consistent browning from the egg wash.
Separate the loaf into three even sections (which I did not do so well)
Then roll them into tapered logs and put the ends together.
Proceed to braid the sections together, then tuck the ends underneath. If you don't know how to braid, check the link at the end of my post.
This is where patience kicks in. Some people will tell you that you should bake it as little as 30 minutes after forming it, but according to the little old Jewish grandma of the girl who gave me the recipe, you really have to wait up to two hours for it to be as good as possible. After two hours the loaf should be a little over double in size from when you left it alone. Either way, set the oven to 325 degrees 30 minutes prior to baking the bread.
When the oven is pre-heated, beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt and brush onto the bread. Don't use too much egg or you'll see it. You just want a nice glaze.
Dust the top of the bread with sesame seeds and cinnamon. The cinnamon is non-traditional but so is using maple, too. Maple-cinnamon is delicious.
Put a pie plate full of ice cubes beneath the bread so that the oven retains a level of humidity. Open the oven five minutes prior to removing it from the oven so that some steam can come out and the crust can really harden. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
I'm very pleased with how this bread came out. As I said at the start of my post, I've never made bread before so it was a fun experience. I'm going to make this a few more times with some variation in ingredients just to experiment a little. The cinnamon really smelled incredible during the baking process and has stayed with the product.
For shaping and general handling advice I consulted this video: