I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty awesome at eating bread. That part of the brain that tells you when you’re full and to stop eating – it basically shuts down when there is baked dough in front of me and as a result, I have, on more than one occasion, eaten an entire loaf in one day, if not one sitting. It’s just, so good, whether plain or toasted, with Nutella or jam, or loaded with fixin’s for a sandwich.
You are my favorite thing, bread. My very favorite thing. Side note: if you haven’t seen Fringe, you are seriously missing out. Once you get past season 1, which was, admittedly, pretty rough, it’s one of the most incredible shows, with brilliant acting and superb storytelling and oh god, why do I do this to myself, I am crying again just watching that scene and I think I need to do some emotional eating, so thank god I have this loaf of bread here.
Ignoring the fact that I get way too emotionally invested in TV shows, there’s really nothing like a fresh loaf of challah bread. Soft and sturdy and eggy and delicious, it’s perfectly complemented by a nice layer of jam and even better when made into french toast. Just try not to eat it all in one sitting.
From Baking Illustrated
- 3 – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs plus 1 egg separated (reserve the white for the egg wash)
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp water, at room temperature
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the two eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and 1/2 cup of the water. Add the flour mixture; using the dough hook, knead at low speed until a ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes, adding the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary.
- In a small bowl, whisk the reserved egg white together with the remaining 1 tbsp water. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the egg wash until ready to use.
- Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough over to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Gently press the dough to deflate it, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size again, 40 to 60 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured service. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one roughly half the size of the other. Divide the large piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 16-inch-long rope, about 1 inch in diameter. Line up the ropes of dough side by side and braid them together, pinching the ends of the braid to see them. Place the braids on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with the smaller ball of dough.
- Brush some of the egg wash over the large braid and then place the smaller braid on top and brush with egg wash. Let rise in warm place for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the loaf becomes puffy and increases in size by a third.
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush the loaf with remaining egg wash and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the side of the loaf reads 190 degrees.
- Let cool completely before slicing.
I feel like I say this about every recipe, but it’s incredibly easy to make – just mix, knead, let rise, braid, bake. It does take a bit longer than most bread recipes, though, because there are a total of three rise cycles – two for the dough, and then once after you’ve braided it.
It’s absolutely worth the wait though, just for the smell wafting out of your oven and watching this beauty go from a braid of dough to a puffy loaf of beautifully golden bread.
Baking, more than any other do-it-yourself activity makes me feel like a wizard. You might call it science, but I’m pretty sure it has to be magic that turns the simplest ingredients like flour, yeast, and eggs, into something as beautiful and delicious as this.