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***update - check out my improved 5 braid challah.***
I made this challah bread a few weeks ago for two reasons. One, I have never made a challah before and decided this would be my entry for August’s Bread Baking Day which we are hosting, and two, I wanted it to be a test run for possibly making challah with my mom for the upcoming Jewish high holidays.
For those of you who may not know, Challah is a traditional Jewish egg bread which is eaten on the Sabbath and holidays. It is delicious and you can make unbelievable French toast with it. I decided for my first challlah I would use the Peter Reinhardt’s recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. We have had much success with all of the other recipes we have tried and I find the book to be very user friendly, especially when you are making something for the first time.
I am not going to post the recipe because it is long and I don’t feel like typing it up. I would recommend you buy this book if you are interested in bread baking, or you can find the recipe by doing a Google book search. The challah recipe is a part of the preview. You can also find a fabulous picture tutorial on making this bread over at Pinch My Salt.
Overall I was extremely pleased with my first attempt at braided bread. Although I felt that the bread was a tad bland for my taste I think it may have just needed a bit more salt, and a preferment would also go a long way for a more complex flavor. I will do both of these things when I make more challahs for the Jewish holidays. I would also like to do a version studded with raisins. A bunch pictures and some assistance with how to braid bread after the jump.
This bread recipe is not overly difficult to follow and not extremely time consuming. However, when it came time to do the braiding I did have a little trouble wrapping my brain around how to do this. Even though there is a picture tutorial in the book with the recipe, I had to go to You Tube to see it being done in action before I was able to do it myself.
Here is the video I watched:
Here is my bread passing the window pane test (the dough can be stretched to this translucent state without tearing). Good job challah dough, you get an A+.
After all the proofing and resting, here are my 6 dough balls which will become 2 loaves of challah:
And now they are rolled into strips for braiding. Rolling these out into long strips can be kind of annoying because the dough likes to pull back after your stretch it. The trick is to allow that to happen, let it rest, and then go back to it. Eventually it will cooperate better and you can get the length that you want. If you have ever made homemade pretzels, the stretching process is similar.
And now to the braiding. To begin, lay your strips out on the counter. Begin in the middle and take the right strip and lay it over the middle strip, like so:
Now take the left strip and lay it over the strip that is now in the middle. What you have to remember is that for a 3 braid you are always only braiding over the middle strip, and the “middle” strip will change with every step in the braiding process. This is the point that was confusing me and this is when I went to You Tube for clarification. For some reason I was trying to braid one strip over two strips, but this is wrong. You are only ever laying one strip over one other strip, never over two strips. (I hope this makes sense and is helpful, it makes sense it my brain, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything).
As soon as you grasp this process the braiding becomes so easy and fun:
Now you will have to flip your loaf to finish braiding the other side. I followed the direction I was given in the above You Tube video and literally picked up the challah from the finished end and flipped it over. The side that was the bottom was now the top.
Here are my two finished loaves unbaked:
And out of the oven. I would have liked for the bread to be more of a deeper brown. Next time I think I will do another egg wash glaze in the middle of baking so it gets in all the whiter parts that open up as it bakes.
And of course, we made some French toast with it for breakfast the next day. How could you not?
It was really good, good enough to warrant bacon. Bacon is a special occasion in our house.