Wednesday, May 30, 2012

DB: Challah Bread

Making bread is a process that honestly never ceases to amaze me.  Honestly, there is truly something magical about combining a few simple ingredients and watching it transform to a fluffy, light, buttery bread.  As much as I love bread of any sort, there is just something about homemade bread that takes it to another level.  I enjoy the process, controling the quality of ingredients and of course, getting to enjoy the end product fresh from the oven. 
I am truly excited to share this month's Daring Baker's challenge with you because it not only involves one of my favorite weaknesses, bread, and because I was finally able to make a bread that I've been wanting to conquer for quite some time,challah.  Challah bread is one of those breads that has captivated me from the first time I saw it; it's beautiful.  It is so impressive that it could honestly be used as decoration.  I learned so much through this challenge, not only about the process of making the bread but about the history behind it. 

What is the significance of challah? 
According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday late afternoon) and two holiday meals (one at night and lunch the following day) each begin with two complete loaves of bread.[4] This "double loaf" (in Hebrew: lechem mishneh) commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. The manna did not fall on Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion would fall the day before the holiday or sabbath.[5] Each single loaf is woven with six strands, both loaves have twelve which represent each tribe of Israel.
Recipe source: Wikipedia

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

White Honey Challah Bread

For bread-

1 ½ cups warm water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp dry active yeast
½ Cup honey
1 Tbsp oil
4 Large eggs
1 ½ Tsp salt
5 Cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

For egg wash-
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water


Preaheat oven to 325.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

In mixer bowl/large mixing bowl combine ½ cup warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons yeast.  Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.  Add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour to the yeast mixture and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. 

Transfer dough to a clean, well oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down the dough and divide it into two even pieces. Use one half to make each loaf (shaped or braided as desired)

Place loaves on prepared baking sheet, cover with a towel and allow to rise 30 minutes.  Brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted.)  Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done.  Remove from oven, transfer to wire racks and allow to cool.

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