Challah Bread

How satisfying is this bread ? It is rich, sweet and so moist. The dough has a very soft feel and is rather closed in texture. The perfect bread to accompany a Friday Shabbat Dinner. Living in New York, you would find it in many restaurants for Sunday brunch, especially for French Toasts. The bread is not as rich as Brioche as there is no dairy products in Kosher recipes and this bread why it keeps so well. After two days, if you are lucky enough to have any leftovers, the bread dries out a little bit and is perfect to make toasts. Like any enriched dough, the addition of eggs and sugar slows down the rise of the dough. I was surprised to see how little it expanded in the mixing bowl and feared it would not rise to a fluffy bread. But, to my surprise, after the first rise, when you create the braids, the dough gets a second lift and increases in size. The final baking gives it yet, another push and the bread expands considerably in the oven. So don’t be alarmed if you feel the dough does not rise as much as you would expect.
We brought a freshly baked loaf for a Friday night Shabbat dinner with friends and I believe our Hosts were so pleased, such a treat.
An exercise to enhance your braiding technique ! To ensure a consistent braiding, cut your dough parts in 3 equal size. ( I use a scale for accuracy and consistency). The trick is to form a square with each piece of dough and roll them like you would do for a baguette. I have tried to simply use each piece of dough and roll them into strips… the exercise proved quite difficult. There were bumps and on the dough strips and the baking was quite inconsistent. By doing a baguette roll, you can have equal strips of dough without any lumps or bumps.

3 1/4 Cups of all purpose flour (I have used 00-type flour with very good results as well)
2 1/4 Teaspoons Active dry yeast – You can also used rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Water at room temperature
1/4 Cup Vegetable oil
2 Large Eggs + 1 egg yolk at room temperature
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch salt for
1 Teaspoon Poppy Seeds or Sesame Seeds (You can also use Za’atar which is delicious)

You can make the dough by hand, but I used a stand mixer most of the times…so much faster.
Mix all the dry ingredients (except the sugar) in the bowl of your stand mixer.
In a separate bowl, stir in the eggs, water, oil and sugar and using a whisk, mix well until the sugar has dissolved.
Pour the mixture into the flour and mix at low speed for a minute and increase the speed to medium and mix for about 10 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of your bowl. Take the dough out of your bowl and shape it into a ball. Place it back in the bowl and cover with cling film for 1 1/2 hours.
Stack 2 rimmed bakings sheets lined with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough on your working counter and divide into 2 pieces, one twice as large a the other. (I use a scale)
Divide each piece into thirds and cover loosely with a tea towel.
Working with a piece of dough at a time, stretch and roll into a 40 cm (16 inches) rope.
Arrange 3 thicker ropes side by side, perpendicular to counter edge and pinch the far ends together. Braid ropes into a 25 cm loaf.
Transfer the loaf on your baking tray, brush the loaf with the egg mixture and place the smaller braided loaf on top. Cover loosely with a teal towel and let the dough rest and rise for another 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat your over at 180 Celsius – Brush the bread with a final coat of egg mixture and sprinkle some poppy seeds or sesame seeds.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. I usually turn the bread halfway through the baking. If you are using a thermometer, it should read about 88 to 90 Celsius.
Let the bread rest for an hour before serving… I know… it is a long time !

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