Thursday, October 22, 2009

Food For Thought Thursdays: Challah

When I saw this recipe I immediately thought of my girlfriend, Jill. Now, Jill and I have been friends since 1st grade and she has always been a terrible cook. We wouldn't even let her make rice krispy treats...Kool Aid she could do quite nicely. (I'm gonna pay for that later, I know.) Fast forward 10 years and one husband later and Jill has fully channeled her inner Martha Stewart. I visited her about a month ago and she made the best french toast I'd had in a long time. Her bread of choice? Challah. Enjoy!

courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins per challah, plumped in hot water and drained (optional)
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.

Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid–it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done.)

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

At this point, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. To make a 6-braid challah follow the instructions on this video for the braiding process (I personally did not have success following the written instructions from Smitten Kitchen).

Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.

If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.

Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on a rack.

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