Monday, December 14, 2009


I love to bake bread at all times of the year, but during the winter is when I really have the time to spend on a delicious loaf of bread. Plus, what is better than a warm slice of bread when it is chilly out side? As I was trying to decide what to make as my first loaf of bread this season, I came across a challah recipe in my America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. I have always wanted to make challah, but have also always been intimidated by it. My usual mantra is that delicious food does not have to be beautiful, and that came about because I am clumsy and usually do not end up with perfectly stylized food. I do need some practice on my challah braiding skills, but the flavor was right according to my father and his friend Harvey. Both of them know their challah, so I trust them. I added a little cinnamon and sugar to the glaze to add some sweetness, and that seemed to be a hit with the tasters as well. The bread was a bit denser than I would have liked, but that was probably due to me over-mixing, so I will have to play around with that.

*Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book Pg 113

***Remember to save the leftover egg white for the glaze

1/2 C Warm Water (110 degrees)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
3-3 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C sugar
1 envelope instant or rapid rise yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

1 Large egg white
2 Tbsp water
cinnamon and sugar for topping

For the dough: Whisk the water, melted butter, eggs, and egg yolk together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 3 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the water mixture and mix until the dough comes together-about 2 minutes.

Increase mixer speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If after 4 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/2 C flour, 2 Tbsp at a time, until dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand into a smooth, round ball. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover. let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into 2 pieces, one twice the size of the other. Divide each piece into 3 pieces, and roll each piece out into a 16-inch-long rope.

For the glaze and the braid:
Beat egg white and water together in a small bowl.

to braid:
take the ropes from the thicker piece of dough and pinch the ends together. braid these three strands together. Transfer this braid to the baking sheet and repeat the braid with the ropes from the smaller piece. Brush larger loaf with some of the glaze and top with a fair amount of cinnamon and sugar. Place the smaller loaf on top of the larger one, Take both ends of the loaf and tuck them under the larger loaf. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled in size-dough will barely spring back when lightly pushed with finger-45-75 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Top with the remaining glaze and more cinnamon and sugar. Bake until golden and the center of loaf is at 200 degrees. 30-40 minutes. Rotate the loaf halfway through. Cool on baking sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to wire wrack to cool completely.

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