Friday, October 9, 2009

Easy Challah

I am so excited right now…! Today, I am jet-setting to Seattle, where I get to stay with Linda and have an ultimate foodie weekend! PacificThyme is coming together at last! We met a little over a year ago at “New Hire School,” the introductory training program that all employees of our company go through. We hit it off at training, then went back to our respective offices (San Francisco and Seattle) and kept in touch. When we decided to start this food blog, it had been about a year since we had met, and we knew that we needed to see each other again. And the idea for this weekend was born!

And boy, do we have plans.

A few other friends will be in town too, so to celebrate, we are throwing a Big Saturday Brunch. The menu planning has been a little overwhelming, to say the least, but we’ve had fun tossing different ideas back and forth. I am excited to share one in particular: Challah French Toast.

Now, I love bread, but it used to really intimidate me. A friend in college had a bread machine, and she would always be making fresh, hot bread. But I don’t own a bread machine, so how could I possibly make my own bread? Then I met Challah. And Challah is now pleased to meet you!

This beautiful braided bread is so easy to make! No fancy bread machine is needed, not even a stand mixer! You just need a big bowl, a big spoon, and a quick braiding lesson. You don’t even have to knead this for long, just a minute or so until it is smooth. Incredibly easy! Now, Challah is a traditional Jewish bread, but this Catholic girl has gladly adopted it. Bread this wonderful is meant to be shared and loved by all.

When you bake this golden, eggy bread, the smell will envelop your kitchen and hang around all day, putting you into an incomparable state of bread happiness. It makes perfect French Toast after a day or so, that is, if you can restrain yourself enough to have some Challah left over. But that’s what double batches are for, right?

Easy Challah
From The Smitten Kitchen
Makes 2 loaves (you’ll want both, believe me)
  • 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 8 to 8 1/2 c. flour
In a large bowl, mix yeast, and 1 tbsp sugar with 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water to dissolve. Then add remaining sugar and olive oil. Beat 4 eggs in 1 at a time. Slowly add the flour, mixing until it all comes together. The dough should not be sticky – add more flour if it is.

On a floured countertop, knead the dough until smooth, then place into a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Punch down the dough, recover the bowl, and let sit for another 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, take half of the dough and divide it into 6 balls. Roll the balls into 6 long snake-like strips and place them parallel to each other on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Gather the strips together at one end. Now comes the fun! Braiding Challah is actually very easy, if you know the trick. Are you ready?

Over two, under one, over two. That’s it!

Working from right to left, take the rightmost strip, wrap it over two strips, under one strip, and over the last two strips. Tada! Repeat! Take the rightmost strip, wrap it over two strips, under one strip, and over the last two strips. Repeat until you can braid no more, and tuck the ends under the braided loaf. Isn’t it pretty?

Repeat for the second loaf. You now have two beautiful braided loaves!

Beat the remaining egg and brush over the tops of the loaves, and let rise for 1 hour. After about 50 minutes, preheat your oven to 375 deg F.

Brush the tops of the loaves with another coat of egg, then bake for 40-50 minutes. (Revel in the wonderful fresh bread smell!) Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack until you can’t stand it anymore and have to have some delicious bread.

One of my loaves is on its way up to Seattle with me, to be turned into French Toast on Saturday morning. I can’t wait!

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