My mom made a lot of bread when I was growing up, but the one I remember best is Challah bread.
I mean, anytime you BRAID food, it’s fairly memorable. Also, when it’s a little bit sweet and richer than regular sandwich bread, it’s pretty popular.
Somehow, though, I didn’t get around to trying it myself until last week. I made a loaf and we ate it in 2 days (1/3 went to being eaten plain, another 1/3 went to these paninis, and the last 1/3 was made into the best french toast I’ve ever had).
Also, I cooked it just a couple of minutes too long, so the outside was really, really dark. It tasted fine, but I couldn’t manage to take any pictures of it that didn’t make it look like deeply burnt bread. I showed Bart the photos on the viewfinder of the camera (so we’re talking a tiny image), and his first comment was, “It looks kind of . . .dark.”
Obviously I had no choice but to make another loaf. And we’ve eaten paninis again. And french toast. And slices with jam. No one’s complained.
(adapted very slightly from Annie’s Eats)
Makes 1 loaf
3 cups all-purpose flour (the second time I used one cup of wheat flour and it was still fantastic)
2¼ tsp instant yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk (save the white for the egg wash)
4 T butter, melted
½ cup water, room temperature
1 egg white (saved from the egg yolk used in the dough)
1 T water
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and water together. Add the remaining dough ingredients and knead at low speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is tacky but not sticky (you can add a couple of more tablespoons of flour if you really need to, but don’t over-flour it)
While it kneads, whisk together the egg white and water for the egg wash and refrigerate.
Spray a large mixing bowl with cooking spray, then put the dough in it and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place (I often turn my oven on for about 90 seconds, then turn it back off and let my dough rise in there) until doubled, about 1½-2 hours.
Press the dough down carefully to deflate it, then cover and let it rise again until its doubled in size, another 45-60 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into three equal strands (like snakes – long and thin), then carefully braid them together (I generally start about 1/3 from the top, braid to the end, then braid the other end). Tuck the ends under.
Transfer to a baking sheet (I use my silicone baking mat to line it, but you could do no lining or use parchment paper instead).
Cover loosely with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, until it has increased in size by about a third.
Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Brush the loaf with the egg wash (I never use it all, so I just add it to my french toast liquid a day or two later). Bake the loaf for 25-35 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Cool before slicing (but I would never expect you to wait until it was COMPLETELY cool).