Homemade bread – oh how I’ve missed you!
It’s been 2 months since I’ve kneaded dough. That messy, sticky, soft, stretch wonderfulness felt like home in my hands. I’m no expert bread baker but after making bread about 5-6 times now, I’m getting the hang of kneading and resting and kneading.
I’ve wanted to make challah for a long time. Every since I tried it at a Shabbat service back in college, I’ve wanted to make it myself. It’s soft, eggy, and good to eat whenever, wherever. For this dough, I decided to use my KitchenAid and see the difference between kneading by hand versus kneading by machine. Amy’s Bread encourages kneading by hand to “really know” the dough, and I’ve been using my hands for the breads I’ve made, but I was lazy today *hehe* and short on time so I decided to bring out the dough hook.
I started with Amy’s Bread basic challah dough, and divided half the dough to make cinnamon challah knots and the other half for another time. The ingredients are simple: warm water, yeast, part bread flour, part all purpose flour, salt, eggs, oil, and sugar. After activating the yeast, add it to the wet mixture. When this second mix has been incorporated, add it to the dry mixture and knead into a soft elastic dough.
I immediately fell in love with this dough. Even at the start of the kneading, I could already smell the sweet eggy bread, even though only 2 eggs and 3 tablespoons of sugar were used.
When ready, transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and let it rise for about 1-2 hours. I didn’t have time to bake it the same day so I actually put it in the fridge immediately after kneading for a slow rise. The next day, I took it out and let it rise for 2 hours before proceeding to the next step. After the first rise, the dough is ready for shaping.
I love braided breads so I used half the dough to make a 4 strand braid challah. It’s more simple than it looks. Roll out 4 ropes of dough. Pinch the ends of the 4 ropes together at the top. Take the rightmost rope and braid it over the second, under the third, and over the fourth. Repeat this over-under-over series with the rightmost rope, whichever one that happens to be in the pattern. When you get to the end, pinch and seal the bottom ends like you did in the beginning.
For the other half of the dough, I made cinnamon challah knots. Roll out a piece of dough into a rectangle. I sprinkled a cinnamon sugar mixture over the rectangle and folded it like a letter: top third down and bottom third up. I rolled it slightly into a cylindrical shape and folder the left half over the right half. Using cupped hands, elongate the cylinder into a rope, and then tie it into a knot.
Place the braid, knot, or any shape dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let it rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size. 20 minutes before ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. When the second rise is done, make an egg wash by mixing an egg and some water together and brushing it on top of the dough. Place the unbaked bread into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Turn down the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye out towards the last few minutes, since this bread can burn easily!
Let it cool 10-15 minutes on a rack before cutting into the soft eggy yumminess. This bread is best eaten within a few hours. Any leftover challah should be stored and covered to prevent drying out. Ideas for leftover challah include french toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, croutons, and bread puddings.
adapted from Amy’s Challah found in The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread
1/4 cup Very warm water (105 – 115 degrees Fahrenheit
1 1/2 teaspoons Active dry yeast
1 cup Warm water
4 tablespoons Canola or vegetable oil
1 large Egg
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Sugar
1 large Egg yolk
2 1/2 cups Bread flour
1 cup All-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Salt
1 Egg white
1 tablespoon Milk
Stir and combine the very warm water and yeast. Let stand for 3 minutes. The mixture should get foamy. If it doesn’t, it means the yeast is dead and cannot be used.
In a large bowl, add the warm water, oil, egg, sugar, and egg yolk and whisk together. Add the yeast mixture and whisk again.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and salt and whisk together. With the paddle attachment on, add the liquid mixture and mix for 2 minutes on the lowest speed or until it gathers into a sticky mass. Rest the dough for 5 minutes.
Switch to the dough hook and knead for 3 minutes on medium speed (a 3 or 4 on my KitchenAid) to develop the gluten. Turn up the speed to medium-high (a 5 or 6) and knead for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes before mixing on medium-high speed for a final 1-2 minutes.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Immediately place in the refrigerating overnight.
Take out the dough two hour before shaping to continue the rising process. Divide the dough into any shape you want. I only used half the dough and stored the other half in the freezer for a later time.
Cut out 2/3 of the dough. Divide into 4 pieces and roll them out into 4 ropes to make a braid. Pinch the tops together. Starting with the rightmost rope, braid it over the second, under the third, and over the fourth. Repeat this over-under-over pattern with the rightmost rope. Pinch the ends together to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Divide the remaining third into 2 pieces. Roll out into each into a rectangle and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it. Fold the top third down and bottom third up, like a letter. Fold the left side over the side and roll to form a cylindrical shape. Roll it out more into a rope, and tie it into a knot. Place the knots on the prepared baking sheet. Let it rise for 45-60 minutes for its second rising.
20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Mis the egg white and milk and brush the bread with the egg wash. Place the baking pan into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Watch the bread carefully during the last few minutes of baking. They can burn easily. They should be golden brown but soft.
Place the bread until a wire rack to cool before serving, or you can dig right in when it’s still hot and fresh! The bread is best eaten a few hours after it is baked.