Daring Bakers 05-12: challah

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I have to admit that I wasn’t super excited about this month’s DB challenge at first. Although I had never made challah before, the thought of making plain bread seemed kinda boring.

I still love bread though, and I ended up making it two times in hopes of getting the braiding right, which clearly didn’t happen.

On my second try the braiding looked better, but still pretty wonky

You see, I’ve always been a ‘mommy would you braid my hair’ kind of girl. I can’t braid hair to save my life, and, truth is, braiding dough is considerably harder. The strands, which I guess were too long in the first place, kept thinning as I picked them up.

But I do think I learned some tips and maybe my challah will look right after a couple more tries.

Which is totally possible since this bread is so good, and you can make a lot of variations too. Some of the DBers filled their strands with cinnamon or fruit, while some mixed seeds or chocolate in the dough.

On my first one I added extra sugar and saffron, inspired by the sweet saffron bread at Not Quite Nigella I’ve made a couple of times before (except this time I used actual threaded saffron).

The second one was kept plain and topped with poppyseeds, and was used to make yummy sandwiches. While the first challah had a lovely sweet flavor, the second one had a better texture. I believe I used half the yeast on the first one which made the crumb a little tough.

Blog-checking lines: May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from 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.

Sweet saffron challah

Recipe adapted from Tammy’s kitchen as seen on Daring Bakers
Yield: one loaf

For the foam:
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dry yeast

For the dough:
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tablespoon oil
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/4 cups flour (it’s already upped from the original recipe but you may need a little more)

For the wash:
1 egg
3 tablespoons sugar

1. Mix the warm water and saffron threads and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
2. Add the sugar and yeast and allow to proof for 5 minutes.
3. To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and flour. Knead (by hand or with a mixer) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes.
4. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen or tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours (or you can skip all these steps and use a bread machine, as I did on my second loaf).
5. Punch down the dough, and divide it into 3 equal sections. Roll each section into a strand and braid (you can check Ruth’s instructions for braiding).
6. Place loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
8. Brush loaf’s top with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar.
9. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until done (the bread should reach an internal temperature of 190ºF).
10. Cool on wire racks.

4 thoughts on “Daring Bakers 05-12: challah

  1. Your finished loaves look fantastic! I definitely need some braiding practice, but I think yours came out beautifully. And I love the pictures of the cut slices – they look delicious. Wonderful job.

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