Easter Challah

Happy Belated Easter!

I was so proud of myself because I learned how to make a four-strand braid to make this special loaf. 🙂 The challenge in the original recipe was to learn how to make a six-strand braid, but a four-strand seemed like enough of a challenge at the time. 😉 I loved how it looked too.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I modified the braid and used a proofing oven. I learned the four-strand braiding technique from Tori Avey.com. This link actually has very useful steps for several challah braiding techniques.

Challah is best eaten the day it is made. Because I made the challah the day before Easter, we ate it toasted with butter and jam. I thought it was a perfect holiday breakfast along with our colored Easter eggs. Lovely!

For the Dough:

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 6 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 17 ounces (4 cups) unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T instant yeast
  • cooking oil spray, for coating the bowl

For the Egg Wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 T water

To Prepare the Dough:

  1. Weigh out 17 ounces of flour; or measure 4 cups of flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. The more accurately you measure your flour, the better your bread will be; too much flour will yield a dry, heavy loaf.
  2. Combine all of the dough ingredients, except the cooking oil spray, and mix to make a rough dough.
  3. Knead the dough — by hand, using a stand mixer, or in a bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. It’ll still have a slightly rough surface; that’s fine. (I kneaded the dough in a stand mixer using a dough hook for about 5 minutes.)
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  5. Allow the dough to rise for about 2 hours. (I placed the bowl in a proofing oven.) It won’t necessarily double in bulk, but should become noticeably (if not dramatically) puffy.
  6. Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
  7. You may braid the challah the traditional way, into a three-strand braid. I chose a four-strand braid. (Instructions for these and a six-strand are in the link above.)
  8. Divide the dough into four pieces, or into equal pieces for desired braiding techniques. A scale is a big help in dividing the dough evenly.
  9. Shape each piece into a rough log.
  10. Cover the logs with plastic wrap, and let them rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  11. Roll each piece into a long rope. Your goal is ropes about 20″ long; if the dough starts to shrink back as you roll, cover it and let it rest again for about 10 minutes, then resume rolling. The short rest gives the gluten a chance to relax.

To Make a Four-Strand Braid:

  1. Pinch together the ends of the strands so that all six strands are joined at one end.
  2. Take the strand furthest to the right and weave it towards the left through the other strands using this pattern: over, under, over.
  3. Take the strand furthest to the right and repeat the weaving pattern again: over, under, over. Repeat this pattern, always starting with the strand furthest to the right, until the whole loaf is braided.
  4. Pinch the ends of the loose strands together and tuck them under on both ends of the challah loaf to create a nice shape.
  5. Gently pick up the braided loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

To Finish:

  1. Cover the braided loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s very puffy, 90 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature or in a proofing oven.
  2. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  3. Whisk together the large egg and 1 tablespoon water to create the egg wash. Brush this glaze over the risen loaf.
  4. Nest the challah on its baking sheet into another baking sheet, if you have one. This double layering of pans will help prevent the challah’s bottom crust from browning too quickly.
  5. Put the challah into the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes. If it’s a deep golden brown, tent it loosely with aluminum foil. If it’s not as brown as you like, check it again at 30 minutes.
  6. Once you’ve tented the challah, bake it for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf looks and feels set and its interior registers at least 190°F on a digital thermometer.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.

Note: Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage. While challah does tend to dry out after a day or so, it’s always good toasted or made into grilled sandwiches or French toast.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Babka and Easter Paska

Three Years Ago: Easter Babka

Four Years Ago: Low-Fat Oat & Whole Wheat Buttermilk Waffles

Five Years Ago:

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Applesauce Oatmeal Bread

This wholesome quick bread really caught my eye. I made it as a special after school snack for my kids (and me!). They enjoyed it with a glass of fresh apple cider. I thought it was absolutely perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

The recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I baked the loaf in a Pullman pan, used freshly ground allspice and freshly grated nutmeg, and substituted pecans for walnuts. Yum!

Yield: One standard or Pullman loaf

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or boiled cider
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, plus more for sprinkling top, optional
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • cream cheese, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a Pullman loaf pan or a standard 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and soda, and spices.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  5. Mix in the rolled oats, applesauce, and nuts.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  7. Sprinkle rolled oats over the top, as desired.
  8. Bake the bread for 40 for a Pullman pan or up to 60 minutes in a standard loaf pan, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool completely.
  10. Store cooled bread, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.
  11. Serve with cream cheese, or as desired.

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I had a very productive snow day… I made this amazing bread! 🙂 I was inspired to make it with my kids ever since I read this post from Quinn @Dad What’s 4 Dinner. I should have doubled the recipe as he suggested. It was beyond delicious.

I had delayed making it for such a long time, waiting for the perfect time to bake with both of my kids. On their second consecutive snow day, I decided it was the perfect time. What else did they have to do? Ironically, they weren’t really interested in my baking plans. 😦 As disappointed as I was, I really wanted to make it. What else did I have to do? 😉 and… In case you were wondering, yes, they were interested in eating it!

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I made the dough in my bread machine before rolling it out for the filling. I also used a proofing oven for the loaf to rise prior to baking. Fabulous.

Baking Time: 45 min
Total Time: 3 hrs 40 min

Yield: 1 loaf

For the Dough:

  • 361 g all-purpose flour
  • 46 g potato flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 35 g dry milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 35 g granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 57 g butter (about 4 T)
  • 227 g lukewarm water (about 1 cup)

For the Filling:

  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 35 g raisins or currants
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg beaten with 14 g water (about 3 tsp water)

For the Streusel Topping:

  • 28 g unsalted butter, cubed (about 2 T)
  • 28 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 28 g all-purpose flour
  1. Add the liquid ingredients and butter to a bread machine pan and top with dry ingredients. (If not using a bread machine, combine all of the dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mixing until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.)
  2. Knead the dough with an electric mixer for 2 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading it for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until it’s smooth. If you’re kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface; knead it for 3 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading till smooth, an additional 8 to 10 minutes. *You can also simply knead the dough using the dough cycle of your bread machine.*
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (if you’re not using your bread machine’s dough cycle), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours; it’ll be puffy, if not doubled in bulk.
  4. Transfer the dough to a rectangular piece of plastic wrap or a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into a long, thin rectangle, about 16″ x 8″.
  5. To make the filling, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins or currants, and flour in a food processor (mini preferred) or blender, processing until the fruit is chopped.
  6. Brush the dough with some of the egg/water, and pat the filling onto the dough. Reserve the egg wash for the streusel topping. img_8674
  7. Beginning with a short edge, roll the dough into a log.
  8. Pinch the side seam and ends closed (to keep the filling from bubbling out), and place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. img_8676
  9. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 hour at room temperature or in a proofing oven, or until it’s crowned about 1″ over the rim of the pan. (Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes.) Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. img_8678
  10. In a small bowl or mini processor, combine the streusel ingredients, cutting in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. If you’re using a mini processor, watch carefully; streusel will go from crumbly to a cohesive mass in just a second or so.
  11. Brush the loaf with some of the remaining beaten egg and add the streusel, using your fingers to gently apply it to the dough, being careful not to deflate the loaf.
  12. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, then tent the loaf lightly with aluminum foil and continue to bake 15 additional minutes.
  13. Remove the loaf from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, gently remove it from the pan. Some of the streusel will fall off, but you can alleviate this by first loosening all around the edges of the loaf with a knife, then turning the pan on its side and gently pulling it away from the loaf. Streusel will continue to fall off as you maneuver the bread — we’ve never figured out how they make that stuff adhere so nicely on the store-bought loaves! — but you’ll still be left with some nice, sweet topping.

Note: For a deep-dark, moist, cinnamon swirl inside the bread: Blend together sugar, cinnamon, raisins or currants, and flour until smooth. The addition of raisins or currants adds moistness, as well as subtle flavor.

One Year Ago:

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Four Years Ago:

Oatmeal Bread

I had a few friends over for lunch the other day. Fun! One of them had just met with a nutritionist and was on a menu plan that didn’t include bread or fruit- or any sugar, actually. I thought… I need to do that. :/ But then, my husband suggested that I bake a loaf of bread. 🙂

My friend had to eat a deconstructed sandwich- and even had to remove the tomato! As I’m sure her suffering will be completely worth it, I might reconsider a dietary change when this delicious loaf is gone! 😉

This recipe was adapted from The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook. I modified the recipe to incorporate bread flour and bake in a bread machine. It was very soft and moist. Amazing sandwich bread.

Yield: One loaf

For the Oat Mixture:

  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup rolled or steel-cut oats
  • 4 T  plus 1/2 tsp honey
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1/2 T coarse salt

For the Dough:

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 T bread machine yeast
  1. In the bread machine loaf pan: Combine the boiling water, oats, boiling water, honey, butter, and salt. Let cool slightly.
  2. Add the warm water.
  3. Add the flours; spread into the corners of the pan to create a level surface.
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour; place the yeast in the well.
  5. Set the bread machine to Basic 1 1/2 pound loaf, medium crust color. Wait & Enjoy!

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

If you like this you may also like:

100% Whole Wheat Banana Bread Muffins

I woke up early and was excited that I had enough time to bake my ultra-ripe bananas into something tasty for breakfast. I had a recipe in mind from one of my favorite bakery cookbooks, but when I saw that more that 1 cup of butter was required for 12 muffins … I couldn’t do it! I quickly found this recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Bread in The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook. Needing a break from my usual New York Times Banana Banana Bread, this sounded like a nice change of pace.

Because it was a school day, I baked the batter into muffins rather than bread to decrease the baking time (We are in a bit of a time crunch in the morning!). I also modified the recipe by adding the topping from the Banana Banana Bread because we love it so much. These muffins were incredible! I love that they contain 100% whole wheat flour and are still very moist and tender. I think this recipe will become my new stand-by banana bread.

Note: I clearly have a thing for banana muffins…. I have included not only the link above to my (previous) favorite banana bread, but links to several of my posts about other great banana muffins below. 🙂

Yield: Makes 12 standard muffins

For the Batter:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (I used 3 small)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional (or optional topping)

For the Topping:

  • 3 T chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 T turbinado sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until well blended and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add and beat together the eggs, bananas, and vanilla.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Blend the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add walnuts, if desired.
  4. Pour this mixture into a greased, 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or a greased 12-cup muffin pan.
  5. Assemble the topping by combining the ingredients. Top each muffin with a generous spoonful, or sprinkle over the loaf.
  6. Bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, or with a couple of crumbs, about 40 to 45 minutes for a Pullman loaf, 60 minutes for a standard loaf, and 17 to 18 minutes for the muffins (on convection).

One Year Ago:

If you like this you may also like:

Hurricane Sandy Pancakes

After Hurricane Sandy, we lost power for a little over a week.  We felt better eating pancakes- and had them a couple of times! My son kept saying “Make pancakes for your blog!” 😉

We make a lot of pancakes, and this is definitely one of our favorite recipes. It is from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook. They truly are simple and perfect. Fluffy and fabulous.

During our power outage, I made them in the standard fashion, and also used a squeeze bottle to make them look like spider webs for Halloween. That was a big hit. 🙂 In normal conditions, I always make them with buttermilk and usually add either fresh blueberries, strawberries, or frozen wild blueberries to the batter.

The Simple But Perfect Pancake

Yield: 16 3-inch pancakes

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup (10 ounces) milk (add 1 tsp baking soda if substituting buttermilk)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 T butter, melted, or vegetable oil (or substitute applesauce)
  • 1 1/2 cup (6.25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (I use 1 cup whole wheat)
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 T granulated sugar (or 1/4 cup malted milk powder for “diner-like” taste)
  1. Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla until light and foamy, about 3 minutes at high speed of a stand or hand mixer.  Stir in the butter/oil.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together to evenly distribute the salt, baking powder and sweetener.
  3. Gently and quickly mix into the egg and milk mixture.
  4. Let the batter relax while the griddle is heating (or overnight in the refrigerator).  The batter will thicken slightly while resting.
  5. Grease and preheat the griddle. The griddle is ready if a drop of water will skitter across the surface, evaporating immediately; if you have an electric griddle, set the temperature between 325 degrees and 350 degrees.
  6. Drop 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the lightly greased griddle.  Cook on one side until bubbles begin to form and break, then turn the pancakes and cook the other side until brown.  Turn over only once.  Serve immediately.

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