Braiding Bread: Easy Challah

It was eleven p.m. last night and I had already baked a batch of alfajores (not shortbread-y enough—due for another attempt soon), I knew I wanted to sleep in a hour or so, and my schoolwork-related productivity for the day had been painfully low. But I was itching to bake. Again.

Unfortunately, the thing about that nagging feeling in the back of your brain insisting on taking on another baking venture is that it doesn’t tend to go away. Believe me, I’ve tried to dispel it. It’s not easy.

So in my own twisted logic, I figured I’d set up some dough to rise overnight and then bake the next day. That totally rationalizes my decision, right? That totally doesn’t count as baking twice in one day, right?

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I love baking bread. It’s honestly one of my favorite things to make in the kitchen. I definitely get it from my mom, who makes this awesome hokkaido milk bread with a tangzhong roux that she braids the way you’d braid challah bread. They’re different, of course, since challah isn’t roux-based and is a lot more eggy, but every time I see her baking her bread, I’m reminded of challah.

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So I threw together the dough last night, let it rise in the refrigerator overnight (so that it didn’t over-proof), and then brought it back to room temperature this morning. I fulfilled my baking craving and wound up with pretty good-looking bread! Soft, barely sweet, with an incredible crumb—this bread is bound to impress!

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Ingredients

Yields 1 loaf

2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 cups flour

1 egg

Directions

1. In a bowl, whisk to combine yeast, 1/2 tbsp sugar, and water and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Add in oil and whisk. Then, add one egg in at a time, mixing to combine.
3. Add in salt and remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whisk until fully incorporated.
4. Add in flour, one cup at a time, and mix until a uniform dough forms.
5. Oil the bowl and place dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for either at room temperatuer for 2 hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring dough back to room temperature if you chose to refrigerate it. On a floured surface, punch dough down and knead.
7. Split dough into 3. Roll out each section into a long rope.
8. Take the ends of each rope and pinch them to hold them together. Braid the ropes until you reach the end. Pinch the end and tuck both ends of the loaf under.
9. Transfer dough to wax paper on a baking tray.
10. Whisk remaining egg brush onto the dough. Repeat so that there are two layers of egg wash.
11. Bake for 30 minutes or until challah is golden brown. Allow challah to cool before slicing.

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