challah

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I adapted this recipe from a few different ones from Smitten Kitchen, plus some help from Gaby (who also baked a challah today, but she made a circular apple challah). I’ve never made challah before in my life, and I’m incredibly proud of how it turned out! My entire apartment smells like eggy bread, which is fantastic. Also, now that I own poppyseeds, I really ought to make some poppyseed muffins.

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Time

about 3 hours (30-40 minutes for baking, and 2.5 hours for rising)

Preheat

375°F You won’t need to preheat the oven until the dough is done rising.

Ingredients:

Yield: 1 loaf

2 1/4 tsp yeast (one packet)
1 tsp honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp kosher salt
4 cups flour
poppyseeds
1 extra egg

I learned the hard way (only by about five minutes though) that you shouldn’t over-bake challah. I missed out on that stringy elastic texture I grew up with. Though that could be because I didn’t google how to prepare yeast before I started baking. I just read this article, so now I can improve for next time. I intend to try again next weekend!

1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve honey and yeast in nearly 1 cup of lukewarm water until the yeast starts to bubble and foam a bit.

foaming yeast

foaming yeast

2. Whisk the oil into the yeast mixture

3. Beat eggs into the mixture one at a time

4. Beat in the sugar and salt.

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5. Gradually add the flour to the mixture. At this point, I’d recommend switching from a whisk to a spatula, as the more the dough holds together, the harder it will be to whisk. Generally speaking, dough hooks of standing mixers can’t quite handle how thick the dough gets, but if you have one, you can definitely use it at the beginning, though I find kneading dough quite satisfying.

6. Clean and flour your countertop or a large cutting board and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. I’d recommend removing your rings, as it’s kind of hard to get dough out of them (a mistake I made a few years ago)

7. Knead the dough until all of it holds together and it reaches a smooth texture.

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8. Clean the bowl you mixed in. Dry the bowl then grease it with a bit more olive oil. Put the ball of dough back into the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel (which is what my dad used to do).

Let the dough rise for one hour

until it has nearly doubled in size. Dough likes to rise in a warm place. My apartment wasn’t quite warm enough, so I turned my oven to the lowest temperature (about 200) then turned it off and let it cool down a bit before putting in the dough. (Yeast prefers around 80°F)

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9. Punch down the dough, recover it, and put it back into a warm place for another 30 minutes

10. Split the dough into 6 balls and roll them into strands about a foot long and an inch or two wide.

11. Place the dough strands parallel to one another and pinch one end together. (I couldn’t figure out Smitten Kitchen’s braiding technique, so I made my own).

12. Take the outer right strand and cross it over three. Then take the outer left strand and cross it over three. Continue in this fashion until you reach the end (if you know how to braid hair this should be pretty easy. If you’re more advanced, you can go figure out her braiding, which I understood when I was reading the recipe, but as soon as I tried to do it, I failed…)

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13. Move the braided dough onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Beat the extra egg and brush it onto the surface of the loaf. Sprinkle poppyseeds to your liking.

14. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30—40 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack (I improvised and used a muffin tin)

Wrap the bread in plastic wrap or a towel to keep it moist (I don’t have a bread box).

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