In this video, I'll show how to make an oh-so-fancy braided bread. It's really not all that difficult, but it will turn any dinner into a special occasion!
And for those of you who do not know what challah bread is, it is a traditional Jewish sweetened egg bread that is often baked for Sabbath and on other special occasions. We've come up with an egg-free variety for this video (since our chickens haven't been laying lots of eggs). I really haven't noticed too much of a difference between the egg-rich version and the sourdough version I've detailed below--both come out pillowy, soft, and wonderful!
You can certainly make a quick-yeast version if you don't have sourdough starter available (which you totally should, it's a fantastic resource), but I'm not sure if the texture will be quite the same. Adjust the rising times accordingly.
Makes enough for two large, lovely loaves
--6-7 cups whole wheat flour
--3/4 cup recently-fed sourdough starter
--2.5 cups of warm, filtered water (keep an additional cup to the side for kneading!)
--2 tsp Salt
--1/4 cup unrefined sugar or honey
--1/3 cup olive oil or softened butter
(Note: The amount of flour you need to use varies on the day’s humidity. I find that I use far less flour in the summer than I do in the winter.)
- .Measure out sourdough starter, oil, sugar, salt, and filtered water into a large bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hand.
Then, add flour, one cup at a time, and continue to mix with your hand. The dough should be wet feeling--if it is dry or hard to work with, add a little more water. If it's a dry day (or if you warm your house with a wood stove, like we do) you may need to add up to another cup of water. Do it a tiny bit at a time until you end up with a soft, yet not-too-sticky dough.
3.Let the dough rest for ten minutes.
Wet your hands with water, and knead for four more minutes. If ever it sticks to your hands, wet your hands again and keep kneading, rather than adding more flour. After kneading, the goal is to have a dough that is smooth and not too sticky. Form into a round, then lay in the bowl, cover with a towel, and put someplace warm for the next three hours.
Dust a clean surface with flour, divide your dough in half, then braid as shown in the video above!
Place loaves on a greased baking sheet. If a glossy sheen is desired after baking, brush with either a beaten egg or a mixture of 1T milk/1T honey. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
Allow to rise for 2-3 more hours.
Preheat oven to 400F°.
Bake for 35-45 minutes (check it at 35! You want the outside to be nicely browned, but the inside to not be overbaked. It takes some experience to know exactly when is right). Your bread is done if the internal temperature has reached 190 F°. You can check with a meat thermometer, or use the traditional method of tapping the bottom and listening for a hollow sound.
Enjoy with friends, family, and some really good butter.
Once cool, wrap in a towel and store in a cool, dark place. It should stay good for about four days. If slightly stale, this stuff makes seriously good french toast, FYI.
I hope that you can enjoy some wonderful meals with family and friends this winter. Thanks so much for reading!