. Okay, I realize Easter has just passed so it would have made sense to post this recipe oh, last week. But we don't do things in a logical manner around here. Boo to that.
Challah Bread. Ever heard of it? I have to say, the first time I ever came across a recipe for challah bread, I didn't even know how to pronounce it. And after making the bread (and also falling deeply in love), I would refer to it as 'cha-la' bread and anyone who may have known anything about breads, probably thought I was a complete idiot. I actually found out how to correctly pronounce this creation while I was watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network one night. And I was a tad bit off. It's actually pronounced 'hall-a', kind of like when people say 'holler!' but without the -er. You get the gist.
Now that we can actually pronounce the name, let's discuss a little about it's history. I know, I know, history isn't any fun, but you can skip over the next paragraph if you must.
Challah is a central part of Jewish tradition and every Friday night, observant Jews recite three prayers before dinner. The third blessing is recited over two loaves of covered challah and then pieces of the bread are broken off and given to each person. This practice represents a continuous connection to the food that grows in the Earth and to God. Furthermore, work is not allowed on the Sabbath and so the breads and baked goods are all prepared ahead of time.
Yes, I Googled that. So thank you Google ☺ Also, since bread making does take a fair amount of time, I'll let you in on a little secret. Our local Great Harvest Bread Company sells challah bread every Friday and I've ventured there several times to grab a loaf. It's absolutely fantastic and will probably be the closest thing you'll find to homemade bread without having to actually make it (and it makes wonderful bread pudding!).
Now that you know all about challah, let me describe to you how it actually tastes, specifically what this recipe tastes like. Let me see. Oh yeah, it's PERFECT! Seriously, the BEST bread I have ever made. Bar none. And my boyfriend is not a bread lover like I am, and he ate almost half of a loaf after he came home from work the day I made this. It's perfectly soft, perfectly chewy, and has a perfectly slight hint of a buttery taste (even though I still don't know how that works since there is no actual butter in this bread). And I would like to use 'perfect' a few more times, but I've run out of ideas. It's beyond fantabulous (see, I had to put words together to let you know how scrumptious this bread is) and doesn't need a thing to accompany it, it is so extremely yummy just on it's own. We literally sat in the kitchen ripping pieces of bread off and happily munching until we decided we had probably eaten just a little too much.
I do have to warn you that this bread does take a little tender love and care. But don't be worried, a lot of the time the dough is just resting and you'll be free to do whatever you like. I spent the day cleaning the house and taking breaks here or there to tend to
[Best Ever!] Mama's Challah Bread
from Heirloom Baking
2 packages quick-rising yeast
1/2 c. water, warmed to 110°F
3 tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
8 c. all purpose flour
1 tbsp. salt
2-1/2 c. water
1 egg, beaten
1. Cut a liner from parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Insert the liner and coat with vegetable spray.
2. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 tablespoon sugar. Set in warm place to proof for about 10 minutes (mixture will bubble when yeast is proofed).
3. Place eggs and oil in small bowl and beat until combined.
4. Sift together flour, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and salt into bowl of standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Make well in center of dry ingredients, add proofed yeast and mix about 10 seconds. Add egg mixture and beat to combine. Slowly add 2 cups of the water. Remove paddle attachment and replace with dough hook and knead for about 6 minutes at medium speed (if dough is too dry, add remaining 1/2 cup of water).
5. Oil large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn dough so that all surfaces are covered with oil. Cover with towel. Put in warm place and allow to rise until double in size (about 1 hour). Punch down dough and divide in half.
6. Divide one half of the dough further into thirds. On lightly floured surface, roll the three dough pieces into ropes about 18 inches in length.
7. Pinch the three ends of the ropes together.
8. Braid the dough ropes and pinch together the remaining ends.
9. Hold one end of the braided loaf and gently wrap around, creating a circular bread shape. Pinch the end of the bread to loaf so it stays together.
10. Place loaf into pie pan and let rest until double in size (about 30 minutes). Repeat with remaining half of dough.
11. Heat oven to 375°F. Brush tops of challah loaves with beaten egg. Bake 25 minutes or until golden in color. Remove from pan and cool on rack to room temperature.
Yield: 2 loaves
- The original recipe also suggested adding 1 cup of raisins or dried cherries, which are kneaded into the dough after it is divided in half. Obviously this would be so great but I do recommend making regular ol' challah bread first. It will NOT disappoint!