About 5 days ago, I’d never baked a challah before. Always admired them, from a distance or from the safe haven of my Insta feed, all those curves and shiny braids, all the while thinking – That’s what I want to bake when I grow up!
And I did. Not the growing up part, that’s clearly not happened yet. But I baked two beautiful challahs and I can’t wait to tell you about them.
The recipe was loosely adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe, in turn adapted from Joan Nathan. My own contribution was using spelt to replace about 30% of the white flour in the original recipe. The spelt worked very well in the bake, the crumb speckled brown and proud. And the loaves – huge, gorgeous, handsome loaves – oh, they went down a massive treat. Any leftovers also make great french toast the next morning!
Reading through notes and comments on the original recipes, I think there are two secrets to getting these beautiful breads right. One – allow for 3 proofs. Two – brush with egg wash twice.
For 2 3-braided loaves, you’ll need:
12g quick yeast
115g caster sugar
410ml lukewarm water
120ml olive oil
5 large eggs
15g fine salt
750g strong white bread flour
300g spelt flour
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds for decorating
In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast and 15g of sugar in the lukewarm water and allow to stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
Whisk oil with the yeast and water.
Add 4 eggs, one at a time, then the remaining 100g sugar and the salt.
Add the flour to the mix gradually, mixing until dough comes together and it’s ready for kneading. Given the quantity of flour, my KitchenAid struggled to knead the dough properly, so you might be better off kneading by hand.
Oil a large bowl and place dough to proof, covered, until doubled in size, approx 1 hour.
Punch dough down and cover again, leaving to proof again. This 2nd proof should take around 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190C.
To prepare for baking, divide the dough into 2 equal portions.
Braiding skills come in handy from this point. Because I’m usually shit at it, I chose to simply put 3 braids together, but you can definitely experiment to your heart’s desire.
For 3-braided loaves, I divided each portion of dough into 3s, rolled, braided then placed on baking sheets.
Beat the last egg with a little bit of water, brush both loaves and leave to proof again.
When ready to bake, brush once more with egg wash and sprinkle seeds of your choosing.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until uniformly golden.
My 2 breads had 30 minutes and 1 hour to proof respectively and this shows in the overall appearance – the loaf which has bloomed is the one which had less time in the final proof.
Enjoy! Don’t forget the french toast!
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