Challah is a slightly sweet, slightly chewy, bread, made with plenty of eggs and butter. The eggs and butter make it almost a meal all by itself. It has a spongey, light texture, but fills you up. It's a great breakfast bread, toasted with butter or jam, and It makes THE BEST FRENCH TOAST EVER.
Traditional challah uses honey as a sweetener, but I decided to use my very own maple syrup, from the tree in my back yard, instead. You can use syrup from the store, but what's the fun in that?
This is a no-knead recipe, which only requires some stirring with a sturdy spoon, and a few smooshes with your hands to mix the ingredients. Like most No-knead bread recipes, this dough is slightly wetter and stickier than a traditional dough. But it's not as bad as some no knead dough, which in some cases can be more of a batter than a dough. it's just wet enough to not require kneading, but just stiff enough to be easily handled.
Step 1: 1. Make or Buy Some Maple Syrup
- Find a maple tree, any kind will do. Sugar maple is best, but silver or red maple work fine too.
- Buy a maple tap kit. it comes with plastic taps, plastic tubing, and sometimes a drill bit. I use plastic 5 gallon jugs used spring water to collect my sap.
- In early spring, when the buds are still closed, and the nights are below freezing, but the daytime temps start rising above freezing, tap the trees.
- Boil it down using a turkey fryer
- It takes about 30-40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, depending on the sugar content of the sap.
- Put it in jars or bottles.
Now you are ready to make some Challah.
Or just buy some... I guess...but this is instructables, right? Why buy it when you can make it?
At least buy it from a local farmer or something.
Step 2: 2. Gather Your Ingredients
Except for the maple syrup (from your very own back yard, right?, the rest of the ingredients are pretty normal.
- 7 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/3 cup maple syrup (from your own back yard) (1/2 cup if you want it a bit sweeter)
- 1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup melted)
- 1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast (2 packets)
- 1 1/2 tbsp non-iodized salt or kosher salt
- 4 eggs, beaten
- egg wash (1 tbsp each water, maple syrup, and beaten egg)
(Note: with 1/3 cup maple syrup, it will be just slightly sweet, with a maple aroma when you toast it. if you want a sweeter bread, use 1/2 cup, or even a bit more, and add a tiny bit more flour to compensate)
(Another note: You may also want to dust the ropes of dough with cinnamon sugar before you braid them. I like just a light dusting, but if you want to create a gooey "cinnamon swirl" effect, use brown sugar and cinnamon, and be generous when you coat the dough strands. this makes it more of a Challah/Babka hybrid, but hey, it's your kitchen, right?)
(Yet another note: This dough makes fantastic cinnamon rolls.)
Step 3: Mix the Ingredients
Mix together everything but the flour, in a bowl. the order you add them is important.
- Start by warming the water. warm but not hot.
- Mix the water, maple syrup, salt, and milk.
- Add the yeast and let it float on top of the mixture until it dissolves (a few minutes) don't stir the yeast or it will clump and won't dissolve properly.
- Mix in the beaten eggs and melted butter.
Measure the flour into a large bowl. I actually prefer a large plastic container with a lid.
Add the wet ingredients, and stir a bit with a large sturdy spoon or spatula. Another option is to just mix it with your bare hands. Don't knead it, just smush the ingredients between your fingers until there is no dry flour left. It will be very sticky at this point. As the flour absorbs the moisture it will firm up a bit.
Step 4: Let It Rise, Then Shape the Loaf
Let the mixed dough rise in a slightly warm oven for at least an hour, preferably two. You can then make the bread immediately, or you can put it in the refrigerator and make the loaf the next day. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to a week. The dough will start to develop sourdough flavors the longer it sits.
Cover loosely, but leave room for gas to escape. if you're using a plastic tupperware container, put the lid on loosely, or poke a hole in the lid and make that container your dough bin.
grab some dough.
- sprinkle some flour on your hands, and onto your countertop or dough board. Sprinkle some flour onto the surface of the dough.
- Gently scoop a handful of the dough. Handle it gently and dont squeeze the gas bubbles out of it. Work your fingers underneath the dough and lift it, then Cut it with a serrated knife to separate it from the rest of the dough.
- You should have a dough ball about the size of a grapefruit
smooth the dough ball.
- Form the dough into a smooth ball. use plenty of flour on your hands.
- Cut the dough into 3 equal portions. (some people make 4 or even 5 strands, but braiding them is a bit more complex)
- Gently stretch and roll each portion into a long rope, around 1 inch wide by 16 inches long.
Braid the dough
- It's best to braid the dough on a greased cookie sheet, rather than trying to transfer the braided loaf onto the cookie sheet. You could also do this on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal, and slide it onto a cookie sheet or pizza stone, but I don't like the grittiness of cornmeal on this kind of bread.
- Lay the strands side by side. Braid from the center towards one end, then braid towards the other end. this ensures that the ends will be evenly shaped.
- A traditional Challah would have 6 strands, but this isn't really traditional, and braiding 6 strands is a lot more challenging.
let the loaf rest and rise, and preheat the oven.
- Preheat to 400-F. When you put the loaf in, you'll lower the temperature to 350-F. When you open the door and put the loaf in, you'll lose around 50 degrees of heat, so if you start at 400, it'll end up right at 350.
- While the oven is pre-heating, let the loaf rest at room temp, for at least 20-30 minutes. longer is better. the longer you let it rise the puffier and lighter it will get, up to about 2 hours max.
Step 5: Brush With Egg Wash and Bake
Brush with egg mixture.
- Mix equal parts beaten egg, water, and maple syrup.
- Brush onto the loaf immediately before baking. if you don't have a brush, just dip your fingers in the egg wash and wipe it on.
- (Optional) Dust generously with cinnamon and sugar. Coarse sugar such as "sugar in the raw" or turbinado sugar gives a nice crusty layer. This is not traditional, though, and will not give the shiny crust of a typical challah loaf.
- Place in preheated 400 degree oven, and immediately turn down heat to 350.
- Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the middle of the loaf sounds hollow and firm when you tap it.
Remove and cool on wire rack. This ensures that the bottom develops a crisp crust and does not get soggy. When it first comes out of the oven, the loaf will still be producing steam, so if you leave it on a cookie sheet or other impermeable surface, the bottom will get a bit soft.
This bread is excellent toasted with butter, or as cinnamon toast, or used for french toast.