Thursday, May 31, 2012


Challah is near and dear to my heart, but we call it Grandma Bread. Challah is a traditional Jewish bread steeped in tradition- Wikipedia will tell you all about it. My family is not Jewish, but my Grandma makes a mean Challah.

Wanting to get more into the blogging community (yes, this exists), I have recently joined The Daring Kitchen. Each month they post challenges- one for baking and one for cooking- and all members post on their blogs the results. I chose to sign up for baking for now. May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads. I'm taking it as a sign that my first challenge was Grandma bread (I mean, challah).

I have made this type of bread before from my favourite people, America's Test Kitchen, but I found their recipe dry. I know- shock and horror- I've never criticized any of their recipes before. This time I used a recipe supplied in the challenge and it turned out much better. Be sure to use a heavy pan to bake the bread though- my loaves always burn on the bottom regardless of the recipe so I've attributed it to my pan being too thin.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Bread is fairly easy to make, but you have to have some time to do it, what with the risings and in this case, shaping the bread. I did take some advise from America's Test Kitchen, actually, on how to braid the dough. Making a four or six (!) strand braid was confusing the hell out of me, so they have you make two regular three strand braids and stick them on top of each other. Easy. Even I can do that. Regardless of the shape, the end result is two delicious, slightly sweet, golden loaves. Stick one in the freezer for later, but be warned you may be pulling it out sooner than you expected. Cause the first one will be eaten so fast, of course.

Aside from being delicious with a schmear of butter, Grandma bread/challah makes fantastic French toast and uber-delicious sandwiches. But my favourite way, which is kind of a tradition in my family, is with butter and a thick slice of ham. Salty and sweet. It's kinda my thang.


Challah (Honey White)

from Tammy’s Recipes
Servings: 2 loaves
 To make fancy looking braided loaves, at step 4 divide each piece of dough into two sections, one slightly larger than the other. Starting with the larger section, divide each of these pieces into 3. Roll each into strands, tapering at ends. Braid, tucking ends under. Repeat with second, smaller, piece of dough. Brush top of first braid with egg wash and affix smaller braid, tucking ends under loaf.
  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) warm water, separated
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) (15 gm/½ oz sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. (2-2/3 packets) (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) dry active yeast
  • ½ cup (120 ml) honey
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) oil (light colored vegetable oil, or olive oil if you prefer)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp. 7½ ml) (9 gm) (1/3 oz) salt
  • 5 cups (1200 ml) (700 gm/25 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
1. In mixer bowl/large mixing bowl combine ½ cup warm water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. yeast. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
2. To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes.
3. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
4. Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf (shaped or braided as desired).
5. Place loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
7. Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted.)
8. Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done.
9. Cool on wire racks.

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