Challah At Me

The first time I tried Challah (pronounced "halla" like "holla at me") I was a freshman in college. My friends and I were mildly intoxicated and there was an innocent challah loaf sitting in my friend's kitchen. The poor thing was demolished in minutes and from then on I gladly accepted any challah offered. Fortunately, several of the families I babysat in college were Jewish, so my challah need was satisfied. The eggy, slightly sweet loaf is a compliment to any meal. Challah is obviously very important to Judaism and has certain times of the year when it is more appropriate to make and eat.

However, since I am not Jewish, I have decided to make it as a vehicle for butter and an accompaniment for soup at dinner. Last week when I elected to make some homemade chicken noodle soup with from scratch chicken stock for my mom and grandma, I knew it needed some challah. 

challah

A rainy Friday at my mom's house proved the perfect time to dive into some cooking and baking. 

Challah is incredibly versatile. It is truly delicious ripped apart and eaten by itself or toasted with butter and cinnamon sugar or jam. It is also good cut in thick, even slices and used for a unique grilled cheese or moist french toast. Another good use is for crunchy croutons. If you have never tried challah, or tried to make it, soup season is near and all soup's best friend is bread. 

I chose to bake challah using a highly rated recipe on allrecipes.com. It turned out great! I had so much fun braiding the dough and look forward to perfecting my braiding skills. I used a four braid design and learned how from this incredibly helpful tutorial. The adapted recipe follows.  

challah
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Simple Challah Bread
A simple loaf perfect for soup or served with tea.
Ingredients
  • 2 C water
  • 1/2 C salted butter
  • 2 T honey
  • 7 C bread flour
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 3 (1/4 ounce) packets active dry yeast
  • 1 T salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
  • Poppy seeds (optional)
Instructions
1. Warm water and butter in small sauce pan until butter is melted, add honey and stir. Take off heat. 2. In a standing mixer fitted with wire whisk, mix together 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast. Add butter saucepan mixture.  Mix until combined. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition. Add salt and beat.3. In a large non reactive bowl, preferably glass or ceramic, mix figs, lemon peel, cognac, sugar, and salt. Let sit for an hour at room temperature and stir occasionally. 3. Change standing mixer attachment to bread hook. Add remaining 4 cups flour in half cup increments. The machine will begin to struggle before all the flour is added. With greased hands, turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth. 4. Place dough in a lightly oiled, large bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm area until doubled in volume, about an hour (an oven warmed to 200 degrees then turned off will work well). 5. Punch down dough and turn it out onto floured surface. Knead and divide into two. Braid each half as desired. I did four piece braids so I divided each half into four and made four ropes to braid. 6. Place the two braided loaves on Silpats over cookie sheets (or greased cookie sheets). Cover again with damp towel and allow to rise for 1 hour. 7. Preheat oven to 350. Beat egg and brush onto loaves. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired8. Bake for 35-40 minutes until hollow sounding. Cover with foil 20 minutes into baking as not to over brown the top.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 loaves
challah

Listening to: Strange Trails by Lord Huron