Sunday, October 25, 2009

Snakes, Snails and Homemade Challah

At its best, a warm loaf of challah, or egg bread, is tender, moist and waits patiently for butter or slathers of delicious jam.  However, unless you are lucky enough to live right near a bakery, you either need to buy it frozen or make your own. Until recently, my oldest son couldn't eat eggs. Yet, this year, our allergist gave us great news-he could eat baked goods with eggs! I don't understand the science, but I do know the joy of watching him create "snails" (round challah) and "snakes" (braided challah.)  

Although there are many recipes for challah, this is one of my favorites.  First, it is very easy and surprisingly quick as the bread only needs one rise.  This semi-sweet, eggy version is best right out of the oven. By the next day, or even later the same day, it is very dense. However, it is fantastic for grilled cheese, french toast or for almond butter sandwiches.  I suspect that you could also freeze the dough once it has risen and bake it on a future occasion. The bakery that created it is long closed, so if you want to try it-you will need to make it yourself!

When I make this with my son, I help him create mini-challahs (using 12 inch "snakes") .

Adapted from Tuler’s Bakery Challah (Egg Bread) and published in the Boston Globe

 Makes 4 loaves of  Challah

 2 level tablespoons yeast

¾ cup sugar (I often use less)

2 cups lukewarm water

5 eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup vegetable oil

10 cups flour plus some for rolling the dough

1 ½ tablespoons salt (preferably kosher or coarse)

 Optional Glaze: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and 1 cup of the water. Let stand for 10 minutes or until beginning to foam.

Stir in the remaining sugar, water, the 5 eggs, and the oil.  Add 7 cups of the flour and the salt and stir well. Change to the dough hook, add 2 more cups of flour and continue to knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding the remaining cup of flour as the dough becomes sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a well flowered board and continue to knead for 1 to 2 minutes. This is a sticky dough. You don’t want to add too much flour or it will become dry. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. 

Using your hands and a lightly floured board and working one piece at a time, roll the dough into a rope about 18 inches long, making sure one end is fatter than the other. Beginning with the fat end, wind the dough into a coil, tucking the thinner end under when the dough is in a tight spiral shape.  Pinch the end into the dough. Repeat the process with the remaining ropes.

Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with cornmeal and place the 4 loaves on the sheets. Cover with a towel and set in a draft-free place until double in bulk, around 1 ½ hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and 1 tablespoon water with a fork. Lightly brush the bread with egg glaze and bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, switching the sheets midway through baking, or until the bread is deep golden and hollow to the touch when tapped in the center.

Remove the bread from the oven and set them to cool on a rack until they cool to room temperature. If you are going to use the breads the same day, wrap them well in plastic wrap and foil and freeze until ready to use.

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