I’m feeling better and better each day so far this week, thankfully. I still feel tired and run down, but I think that my voice is mostly back to normal and I have been able to sleep through the night. I sound like such a baby, don’t I? Cut me some slack, people, I live hard and I play hard…supposedly. That’s how I see it in my head. Although I did spend most of yesterday sleeping and watching Dirty Harry so you do the math. I will also say that after Dirty Harry, I put on Mean Girls. I’m sure Clint Eastwood would just love to know about that one. Deal with it, Clint Eastwood, nobody wants you hear you say anything after that whole chair routine, okay? Pull those pants up and move on along, now. I wish that I would have been able to stay awake long enough to watch the new episode of Sons of Anarchy last night, but I was just too tired.
Speaking of which, you might think that doing something like making challah from scratch would be an exhausting process, when in all honesty, it’s not so bad! Granted, Kramer did most of (see: all of) the work. I just braided the dough after he painstakingly kneaded and punched and worked it all out for me. What a gentleman, right, ladies? We used our Bread bible to help us along, and damned if I’m not impressed by this sweet, almost brioche-like challah. We had some delicious challah earlier this month during our Rosh Hashanah dinner with Kramer’s family, which inspired us to make our own. I know that a lot of you aren’t eating anything at all today, so let’s just say that this is some inspiration for Hanukkah or for your next get together. I fittingly served this challah alongside the brisket that I made this past weekend, which I think was lovingly received. There was only a small piece left over from two giant loaves, which Kramer and I ate up with some fried eggs and bacon the next morning for breakfast. Next time, we’ll have to make even more so we have enough to make French toast, or, dare I say it, bread pudding. Challah is sweet, like brioche, but much more fun to eat. You can pull it apart, braid by braid (or bubble by bubble, which is what it looks like to me), and smother in good butter, dip in olive oil, or use it to mop up all of the tasty juices and sauces from your brisket or runny eggs. B’tayavon!
Then, braid how you like. I used our Bread book to attempt to braid mine as best as possible. You can see how hard I’m concentrating in that first shot (and how my dough looks adorably alien-like).
The best part is tearing off pieces of the braid and smothering it in butter, olive oil, or mopping up your brisket sauce.
- 2¾ teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 1¼ cups 100ºF water
- 7¼ cup bread flour
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 4 egg yolks, room temperature
- ¼ cup + 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 eggs lightly beaten,
- pinch of salt
- Allow the yeast to dissolve in the 100ºF water, then let water come to room temp
- Combine all of the dry ingredients, then add in the eggs and liquid ingredients. Using your dough hook, mix at the lowest speed on your stand-mixer for 3 minutes, then continue to mix using the 2nd lowest speed for an additional 4 minutes. You want your dough to be smooth and elastic and cling to the side of the bowl (that’s when you know it’s ready).
- Cover the dough with a towel, and let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature, preferably in a warmer place if you’re doing this in the cooler months. After 1 hour, punch down the dough to get out any built up gasses from the yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, over the next three hours punch down the dough two more times, replacing the plastic wrap both times, and then refrigerate overnight.
- After the dough has refrigerated, punch it down yet again until it is maleable. Do not flour your work surface for this, as you would for most dough – it should be easy enough to work with so that you don’t need to do this. Divide the dough in half, then divide each half of dough into 3, 4, 5, or 6 pieces, depending on how fancy you want to get with your braiding. I did 4, but you can do 3 if this is your first time – I’d recommend going for a simple, regular braid to start.
- Let’s say you’ve chosen to do 4 braids per loaf, as I did. Divide each half of dough into 4 long pieces, then cover them on your counter with a dish towel and then cover the dish towel with plastic wrat and allow them to rest for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, roll the pieces out into equal lengths with tapered edges; I did mine about 20 inches or so each. Pinch together the tops of one set of 4 ropes, and begin to braid. I used my book to guide me, but there are lots of great instructions all over the web. Braid your dough, then place on a baking sheet, lightly cover with a towel and plastic wrap and let the braids rise for 1 hour and 15 minutes or so, until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Brush your loaves with the egg wash, and bake for 10 minutes, then check on the loaves and rotate the pans. Check the loves after another 10 minutes. If they are looking good, then leave them and let them bake for another 10-15 minutes. If they look like they may be browning too quickly, go ahead and lightly cover them with aluminum foil to stop them from burning. The loaves are ready when they are a golden brown and firm to the touch.
- Allow the loaves to cool for 15-20 minutes, then dig in! Slather with butter, dip in olive oil, or use to mop up any sauce from your holiday meal.