Monday, December 6, 2010

Lovely Double-Braided Challah Bread

by Darla

When I first met the hubster, he did not have a sweet tooth. At all. I’m sure you can imagine my disdain. I mean, I wasn’t much of a baker back then, but I still loved sweets and pretty treats, but he wasn’t the least bit interested in sharing them with me. Well, today he still doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, unless it’s for homemade sweets, that is. He’s not interested in store bought candies or desserts, but he loves to be my first taste tester when I try something new, and he always volunteers to help get rid of extra cakes and cookies!

One thing he’s always loved, though, is bread. It doesn’t always have to be fresh, homemade bread either, although that’s his favorite. You can imagine his excitement, then, when I told him I was making a loaf of challah bread. He was like a little kid waiting for it to come out of the oven, and then cool, so he could have a slice…or four. The thing is, though, this time he had to fight me for it, cause this stuff is good!

It has an ever-so-slightly crisp crust, and the softest, yet firm, texture! I love how it’s just a little sweet, too. You could definitely enjoy this plain, but it’s the best with a smear of butter! Plus, it’s just gorgeous, and so much easier than it looks! Admittedly, it takes several hours because it has to rise three times, but all of the steps involved in making it (even the braiding) are simple and easy.

There are only a few simple ingredients in challah bread: all-purpose flour, unsalted butter (softened), sugar, water, eggs (two whole, and one separated), instant yeast, and salt.

In a small bowl, separate one of the eggs, whisking the white with a small amount of water (cover and refrigerate) and adding the yolk to the two whole eggs.

Fill a one cup measuring cup with one quarter cup boiling water, then drop in the butter pieces and stir until the butter is melted. Next, add 1/4 cup room temperature water, plus the two whole eggs and egg yolk. Whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the butter mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Increase mixer speed to medium low and continue kneading for five to eight minutes, or until you have a cohesive, slightly tacky dough that slightly sticks to the sides of the bowl (if necessary, add up to an extra half cup of flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached).

Transfer the dough to a very lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until about doubled (1 to 1 1/2 hours). Once doubled, lightly press the dough down to deflate slightly, cover and allow to rise again until doubled (another hour or so).

After the second rise, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two pieces, one smaller than the other. The large piece will be two-thirds of the dough (about 18 ounces), while the small piece will be one-third (about nine ounces).

Divide the each piece of dough into three equal pieces (the large will be three pieces, about six ounces each, while the small will be three pieces, about three ounces each). Roll each piece into a one inch rope about 16-inches long. Pinch the top end of the three ropes together, then braid normally. To braid the dough, begin by lifting the right piece up and laying it over the middle piece, making the right piece become the middle piece. Now lift the left piece up and lay it over the new middle piece, making the left piece become the middle piece now.

Repeat, alternating right-over-middle, then left-over-middle until the dough is completely braided. Pinch the ends together, then gently roll them under the end and tuck them in. Repeat this process with the small piece of dough to create another braid that is the same length.

Gently transfer the large braid onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat mat or parchment paper, or very lightly greased. Brush a small amount of the egg wash over the top.

Gently lay the smaller braid on top of the large braid, centering it as best as you can (mine is a little crooked).

Cover the bread with a clean, dry towel and allow to rise for about 45 minutes. Once the dough is puffy and slightly lighter in color, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the bread with the remaining egg wash. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until dark golden brown and the interior temperature reaches 190 degrees. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

I’m a bit obsessed with this bread. It’s slightly sweet and buttery, with a soft, tender crumb, plus…

…just look at how beautiful it is! I mean, really…something this lovely shouldn’t be so easy! But thank goodness it is, so everyone can have it! They will too; no one will skip this delicious bread. Enjoy!

Double Braided Challah Bread
Makes one loaf

Ingredients

3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast (or one envelope, which is equivalent to 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, plus 1 egg separated (saving the white for egg wash)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup boiling water, plus 1/4 cup room temperature water
1 teaspoon poppy or sesame seeds, optional

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white with 1 tablespoon water, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a 1 cup measuring cup mix the boiling water and the butter pieces until the butter is melted. Next, add the room temperature water, plus the two whole eggs and egg yolk. Whisk to combine; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 3 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the butter mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Increase mixer speed to medium low and continue kneading for five to eight minutes, or until you have a cohesive, slightly tacky dough that just sticks to the sides of the bowl (if necessary, add up to an extra half cup of flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached).

Transfer the dough to a very lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until about doubled (1 to 1 1/2 hours). Once doubled, lightly press the dough down to deflate slightly, cover and allow to rise again until doubled (another hour or so).

After the second rise, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two pieces, one smaller than the other. The large piece will be 2/3 of the dough (about 18 ounces), while the small piece will be 1/3 (about 9 ounces).

Divide the each piece of dough into 3 equal pieces (the large will be 3 pieces, about 6 ounces each, while the small will be 3 pieces, about 3 ounces each). Set aside the smaller pieces for now. With the larger pieces, roll each piece into a 1-inch rope about 16-inches long. Pinch the top end of the 3 ropes together, then braid normally.To braid the dough, begin by lifting the right piece up and laying it over the middle piece, making the right piece become the middle piece. Now lift the left piece up and lay it over the new middle piece, making the left piece become the middle piece now.

Repeat, alternating right-over-middle, then left-over-middle until the dough is completely braided. Pinch the ends together, then gently roll them under the end and tuck them in. Repeat this process with the smaller pieces of dough to create another braid that is the same length.

Gently transfer the large braid onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat mat or parchment paper, or very lightly greased. Brush a small amount of the egg wash over the top. Gently lay the smaller braid on top of the large braid, centering it as best as you can.

Cover the bread with a clean, dry towel and allow to rise until the dough is puffy and slightly lighter in color (bout 45 minutes).

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the bread with the remaining egg wash. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until dark golden brown and the interior temperature reaches 190 degrees. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated

 

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 bttrflybabydoll December 6, 2010 at 10:10 am

Oh how I love bread! So pretty!

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2 kbkbakery December 6, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Challah bread makes fantastic French Toast!

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3 Maria December 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Oh, this looks delicious! I've never made proper bread before (except for one loaf that turned out like pound cake), but this looks so easy I think I'll try it.

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4 Blog is the New Black December 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I've never had or made challah bread before, but I admire its beauty. I've heard it makes excellent French Toast, too.

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5 Darla December 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm

@kbkbakery – I know!! :) I can hardly wait to make some!

@Maria – You should definitely try it…I was surprised that something that looks so intricate could be so great. :)

@Blog is the New Black – This was my second time making challah, and I have to say, this recipe is far better than the first one I tried. The first one turned out good, but this one has so much more flavor and a fantastic texture! I definitely recommend it…obviously! :)

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6 Tree December 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Definitely trying this one! I love the bread recipes you put up! :)

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7 Dustin December 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm

You have some amazing photos. I am really impressed by your lighting. Everything looks so tasty. You should share over at http://www.dishfolio.com you would be a welcome addition.

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8 La Table De Nana December 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Just gorgeous.

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9 Stanislav December 6, 2010 at 5:29 pm

In my native country-Slovakia, we call this VIANOCKA, I love this fluffy sweet cake bedaub with butter and with warm milk.

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10 Alicia December 6, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Challah is my absolute favorite bread, hands down — I could live off of it.

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11 kirbie December 6, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I love the double braided look! My brothers have been telling me to make challah bread all week. I made some other bread this weekend and they kept asking me if it was challah bread. I'm definitely going to try this!

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12 Candi December 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Looks beautiful!!!

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13 Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote December 6, 2010 at 11:37 pm

There is nothing like the smell of bread baking in the oven. You put together a beautiful tutorial for making this fabulous loaf of challah!

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14 Jun December 7, 2010 at 12:14 am

I love the smell of bread baking in the kitchen. There’s nothing better than home-baked bread. Thanks for sharing the step by step shots too!

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15 lynne December 7, 2010 at 12:18 am

I can't wait to try this! It looks delicious!

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16 {Clockwork Lemon} December 7, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I just challah today!!! I used a recipe that had oil instead of butter and I did a six-strand braid instead of two three strand braids

mmm there must be a challah vibe in the air!

Yours is beautiful!

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17 miranda December 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm

My first attempt at challah and braided bread…. mine didn't turn out quite as pretty as yours, but boy is it tasty. My boyfriend and I polished off half the loaf before we knew what hit is…. Thanks for this amazing recipe

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18 Anonymous December 21, 2010 at 3:25 am

I just made this today -your recipe turned out spectacularly! It was delicious, my whole family loved it! Next I'm going to try that yummy bread pudding recipe of yours… thanks so much for sharing!!

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19 Anonymous December 21, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I just made this today -your recipe turned out spectacularly! It was delicious, my whole family loved it! Next I'm going to try that yummy bread pudding recipe of yours… thanks so much for sharing!!

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20 Seraphine December 22, 2010 at 12:48 am

best way to eat it is with peanut butter! yummm.
i never thought to stack (double-braid) my loaves before, so that is the next thing i'll try.
what a cool idea!

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21 Jillian January 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm

I just baked this today and it came out incredibly! The only issue was that my yeast was expired, but other than that everything went without a hitch! thanks again for the recipe =]

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22 Penny January 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

My goodness, that is absolutely beautiful! Gorgeous pictures. I bet it was yummy!

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23 Jackie (Phamfatale.com) February 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm

You did such a beau­ti­ful job braid­ing that bread (I like the idea of a double thickness). It looks beautiful…but com­pli­cated! Very impressive.

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24 Judy February 20, 2011 at 2:04 pm

How do you use dry active yeast in this recipe, rather than instant yeast?

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25 Darla February 20, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Hi Judy,

Do not add the yeast with the dry ingredients. Instead of combining hot water with butter, egg, and some room temp. water, fill a small bowl with 1/2 cup warm (100-110 degrees) water. Add one teaspoon of the sugar from the recipe and the active dry yeast (equal amount to what the recipe calls for) to the water. Stir gently to dissolve the yeast and allow to proof for 5 to 10 minutes. When it is foamy and smells like bread, it’s ready (if not, you may need new yeast). In this preparation, you will have to melt your butter separately, then whisk the egg into it. Add the yeast and the egg mixtures to the dry ingredients together. I hope this is helpful. I always use instant (also called bread machine) yeast because you never have to proof it…you can always just throw it in with the dry ingredients. If you have any other questions, please let me know! :)

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26 Rotem September 15, 2011 at 11:21 am

WOW it looks wonderful!
As a traditional Jew I eat it at my house every Friday, and I had never came across a challa that contains butter, because Jews keep kosher (separation of meat and milk)
I have to know where you got the recipe -u invented?

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27 Darla September 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Hi Rotem, As you’ll see at the very end of my post, I actually adapted this from Baking Illustrated, which is one of my very favorite cookbooks ever. :)

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28 Devon January 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I love this recipe, and so does everyone I’ve ever made it for. There’s nothing like a warm, fresh challah smeared with butter to fix any sort of day. I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried from this blog (the chai cupcakes ranking amongst my absolute favorites), but this one especially. I never would’ve tried this if I didn’t read this blog, and I can’t thank you enough for posting this!

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29 Nicki November 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I see it says to cool completely before serving, could I make this the day before? I know it won’t be as fresh, but I won’t have time to make it the day of. Thanks! And I can’t wait to try it!

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30 Darla November 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm

You can make this in advance, but it does tend to dry out quickly, so I wouldn’t recommend more than a day or two early.

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31 Pat boehm January 21, 2014 at 4:20 am

Your recipe shows 3- 3-1/2 cups flour. Do you mean 3-1/2 cups flour? Something doesn’t sound right. Thanks. If so, you may want to correct it.

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32 Darla January 24, 2014 at 12:44 am

It’s 3 to 3 1/2 cups, depending on how much you need.

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33 Cori April 22, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Quick question, I don’t have a mixer with a dough hook. Is there is a way I can hand knead the dough? Thanks!

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34 Darla May 2, 2014 at 11:28 am

Hello, yes you can hand-knead the dough. Just make sure that you do so on a clean dry counter, lightly s=dusted with flour. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and soft.

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