Step 1: Ingredients
milk 550ml 18.6 fl oz (2 1/4 cups) U.S cups
unsalted butter 175g 6.17 oz (3/4 cup)
salt 25g 0.882 oz (4-5 Tsp)
the yolk of 2 eggs for the dough, one for "glazing"
instant dry yeast 14g 0.5 oz (4 1/2 Tsp)
all purpose flour 1000g 35.27 oz (7 1/2 cups)
A couple of things i want to say about the ingredients.
The milk i use is plain pasteurized milk. Not skimmed, low fat, high temp-treated or revitaminized. As i remember, it can be a bit tricky to get it in the U.S., at least i had troubles finding it. The flour i use is special Zopf flour. It's 90% white wheat flour and 10% white spelt flour. It has a lower gluten content than bread flour, it's also suited for Bavarian style brezen or pretzels.
A handy conversion utility:
Step 2: Preparation of the Dough
Since i mix and knead most of my doughs in my Kenwood kitchen machine, i put the flour, the yeast and the salt into the bowl and mix it, so the yeast is evenly distributed. (Normally i use fresh pressed yeast, which i dissolve in some of the milk.)
I melt the butter on low heat, separate 2 yolks into a cup or mug. When the butter is molten, i add some milk to it and then the yolks. (I do this for the butter to cool down a little.) I use the remaining milk to flush the yolk out of the cup. I stir this mixture with a fork and then add it to the flour. Make sure, this mixture isn't too hot, otherwise you kill off your yeast. (i wouldn't go over 35 deg. Celsius or 95 deg. Fahrenheit, although the yeast should survive some more)
Then i start to mix the dough on low speed. When it is mixed, i raise the speed and let it knead for 12 minutes.
Before i got my Kenwood, i mixed it with a large spoon and the kneaded the dough manually for 15 minutes or so. Later i used my hand-mixer with the kneading hooks, but after breaking a couple of these hooks, i realized i needed something sturdier.
When the kneading time is over, i still give the dough some folds manually. So i can feel the dough's consistency.
I put the dough back into the bowl to give it the first rise. You need to cover the bowl with a plastic wrap or a damp towel, otherwise a skin will form on the dough.
When it was ready for fermentation, i looked out the kitchen window and saw my freshly finished bread and pizza oven. We just applied the finishing plaster today. The roof is still beta, but will be completed next week. By the way, i have made a instructable about it, It's in food and home.
Step 3: Shaping
After about 1.5 hours the dough has risen to twice it's initial size. This time can vary depending on temperature, yeast amount and viability and a couple of other factors. But most of the time it's between 1.5 and 2.5 hours.
Now it's time to divide the dough to the size you like. In my household, i make 3 braids out of my dough. One will be eaten, the remaining two go bagged up into the freezer, or make wonderful gifts.
To divide, i roll the dough to a strand so i can better judge it's size to divide and i also degas the dough. Then i roll one piece of dough again and then divide it into two strands of the same size. These two strands have to be rolled, until 75cm or 30 inches long. I always roll one a bit, then take the other, roll it a bit and so on. This way the dough won't rip as easily, as if you try to roll it to length in one go. I also taper off the ends a little bit.
Then i braid it, as you can see on the video. Sorry, i should have chosen a higher resolution, and it's best to turn the sound off, i would have removed it but didn't know how...
With the picture and the video, you should be able to do it. Maybe your first braids won't look very nice, at least mine didn't. If one looks especially ugly, you can take it apart, roll the strands again and start over. Of course, the form doesn't affect the taste.(If you eat it with closed eyes....)
Step 4: Proofing and Baking
After shaping the braids, you have to let it rise again, for 45 minutes. This rise is also called proofing the dough. In order to prevent a skin on the dough, you have to cover it. The best you can use, is a floured linen towel. I used to use a damp cotton kitchen towel until recently. But the floured linen sticks even less, especially with very moist doughs.
So after these 45 minutes, you need to brush the babies with eggwash. I take a egg yolk and a little bit of water, mix it with a fork and brush it on the braids.
Baking instructions can vary from oven to oven. For a bread of this size, a baking time of about 35 min. seems appropriate at around 170 Celsius 340 Fahrenheit with the oven preheated. My mum used to put it into the cold oven and set it to 180 Celsius 355 Fahrenheit for 40-45 min. This way, the yeast gives a last quick rise, as the oven heats. I normally use the cold oven method.
Since i can add steam in my oven, i use this feature extensively. It keeps the crust from forming in the beginning, giving it a even better "oven spring".
Since my wood fired bread / pizza oven is operational, i had to try a braid of course.
Step 5: Last Words
The difference between a Swiss "Zopf" and a Challah:
Challah seems to come from the arabic culture. They do have much in common though. They use eggs and fatty components. In a "Zopf" it's milk instead of water and molten butter instead of vegetable oil.
Sorry for the video, that is placed as a file. I didn't receive my confirmation mail from youtube in time.
I will add the youtube version later, hopefully with a higher resolution.
I hope you try it out and enjoy it.
When you're interested in baking, see my other instructable.
Wood fired Pizza / Bread oven