At the beginning of the year I had set out some baking and cooking goals for myself. The very first one I checked off the list included a braided bread loaf. I have many of those goals still left to accomplish and I may or may not get to them this year due to life being life. But I was a bit relieved to see that this month’s challenge was something with which I at least had a bit of familiarity.
I took great care to “incubate” the dough this time and wrapped the bowl with a large towel and placed it far from the stainless steel counters. The chill in the air was not going to stop me! The dough rolled out quite easily and the braids came together easily. The dough rose again and was popped into the oven. I was so pleased with how it was baking up. The problem was that it was causing people to salivate as soon as it came out of the oven. Everyone wanted to touch it, hold it, and smell it. Thankfully, they allowed time to let it cool. Slightly. Just a few hours later we are down to one loaf and have none left to even try it out for French toast.
So, I have baked challah before and believe me, I enjoyed it. But, this recipe is an absolute keeper. It is delicious and absolutely worth baking again. Soon.
- 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups of flour, unsifted
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 package of dry active yeast
- 1/2 cup of butter, softened
- a pinch of ground turmeric (or palillo!)
- 1 cup of warm water (120-130F)
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon of cold water
- 1/2 teaspoon of poppy seeds
- Combine 1 1/4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in the softened butter. Stir the saffron into the warm water until it dissolves. Add a little at a time to the flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer and medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally.
- Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Blend the single egg white and the other 3 whole eggs into the batter. Reserve the single egg yolk. Stir 1/2 cup of flour into the batter and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Blend in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board about 8 to 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it once to grease the top. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place until double in bulk (approximately one hour).
- Flour a pastry board lightly and set the dough on it. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 2 pieces, using 1/3 of the dough for one piece, and 2/3 of the dough for the other. Divide the large piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each of these into 12 inch ropes. Braid the ropes together tightly, using your fingers to press the dough together at the ends. Divide the smaller piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each of these into 10 inch ropes and braid tightly. Place the smaller braid on top of the larger one and seal the ends. Repeat this process to form the second loaf.
- Place both braided loaves on a greased baking sheet. Mix the reserved single egg yolk with the 1 tsp of cold water and brush the top of the loaves with the mixture. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, and let the loaves rise until double in bulk in a warm draft free place (approximately one hour). Preheat oven to 400F once loaves are almost finished rising.
- Bake in a 400F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on wire racks.