Braided Challah Bread

I know that I rarely post bread recipes, but trust me, bread is probably the one thing I make the most in this house. It might be tied in first with muffins, but like…bread.

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If you don’t like bread, I’d like you to leave now. Actually, I’d like you to make this recipe, and if you still don’t like bread, then definitely leave, because you’re probably not human.

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For those of you who don’t know, challah is a braided bread that’s usually eaten on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. The bread dough is quite a basic bread dough, but there’s an addition of eggs and sugar that give it a wonderful texture with a hint of sweetness. There are usually raisins kneaded into the dough and it’s usually topped with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, but those are both optional, as the bread tastes amazing with and without them!

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In terms of braiding, I just braided a classic three-section braid, but if you’re fancy with this stuff, feel free to braid it in whichever way you’d like. If you don’t know how to do a classic braid, just go to google images and type in, “How to braid”, or just ask your sister.

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Braided Challah Bread

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons (11g) dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon (13g) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs + 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) salt
  • 8 to 8 1/2 cups (1000 to 1063g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (70g) raisins, soaked in hot water and drained (optional)
  • Poppy seeds or sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)

Method

  1. In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and water and leave to dissolve for about 5 minutes
  2. Whisk in the oil, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, and add in the 1/2 cup of sugar and salt
  3. Gradually mix in the flour until a dough forms. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, or knead it in a stand mixer using a dough hook
  4. Transfer the dough into a greased and floured bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for approximately 1 hour*, until doubled in size
  5. Punch the dough down and let rise again, covered with a tea towel, for another 30 minutes
  6. Knead in the raisins if using. Pull the dough apart into 6 balls, and roll each one into a strand about 12 inches (30cm) long and 1.5 inches (4cm) wide. Take three of the strands and pinch the tops together. Braid the dough, and pinch the ends together. Repeat this step with the other 3 strands**
  7. Beat the remaining egg and brush it on the loaves. *** Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius or 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and let the dough rise for another hour
  8. After rising, brush the dough with the remaining egg again and sprinkle with seeds, if using
  9. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool before serving

*Any of the three risings can be done in the fridge for a few hours, for more deeply-developed flavor. Bring back to room temperature before continuing with the recipe

**Or you can braid the dough whichever way you wish!

***At this point, you can freeze the dough. I usually like to freeze one loaf and bake the other one. If freezing the dough, remove the dough from the freezer 5 hours before baking

 

Crusty Muesli Bread

It’s about time I posted a recipe for bread. I make bread pretty regularly, but I’ve never photographed and recipe-tested it as much as I do for desserts/baked goods. Perhaps it’s because bread is so versatile once you get the hang of it. This recipe, in particular, supports that statement.

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I’ve made this muesli bread countless times. The first few times, I followed the recipe as it was, but then I kneaded in other add-ins, and they always work. In this recipe, I give you instructions on how to make the base of the bread – the flour and water and yeast measurements, and the rest is pretty much up to you. It’s like making muesli. You stick to a good ratio, and you can use whatever combination of nuts and seeds and dried fruit as you wish.

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I personally would vouch for 1 part seeds, 1 part chopped nuts, and 1 part dried fruit, or to be more specific, 1 part sunflower seeds, 1 part chopped almonds, and 1 part dried cranberries, as stated in the recipe, but really, it’s up to you.

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In terms of flour to water ratio, you may need to add a little more flour, or a little more water, as with all bread recipes. Different climate/humidity and the use of different flours can change the state of the dough. However, especially with experience, this isn’t usually too much of an issue.

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Note: As I stated above, feel free to use any combination of muesli-like ingredients (seeds/nuts/dried fruit) in place of the pumpkin seeds, almonds, and dried cranberries. Also, I’ve had success working with both regular bread flour and whole wheat bread flour, and I’m sure all-purpose would work as well.

Crusty Muesli Bread

Adapted from Minimalist Baker

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3/4 tablespoon yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped

Method

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the warm water and yeast
  2. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix the flour and salt. Pour the water mixture in and mix until combined. If you have a stand mixer, let the mixer knead the dough for a few minutes, but if you’re just mixing by hand or using a spatula, then stirring until combined works fine as well. The dough should be sticky.
  3. Form the dough into a ball and place into an oiled or floured bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave the bowl in a warm place to rest for 1-2 hours, until doubled
  4. Punch the dough down and transfer onto a floured surface. Using your hands, knead the dough a few times. Press the dough flat and then place the pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and chopped almonds onto the dough. Fold the dough in half a few times and knead until everything is fully incorporated. Transfer the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper*. Score the top of the dough with a sharp knife and let rest for at least 20 minutes
  5. Place a baking sheet/metal pan at the bottom of the oven*, and preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius or 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Transfer the dough into the oven and pour a cup of water into the heated baking sheet/metal pan, causing it to steam, and instantly closing the oven door*. Bake for 50 minutes.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven. The top should be browned and it should sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of the loaf.

*Alternatively to using this method to create steam, you could also bake the bread in a heavy-bottom iron pot lined with parchment paper with the lid on. It traps the moisture in, and thus, also helps with creating a crusty loaf.