Baking bread can seem daunting to people. There's yeast, kneading (or not), and multiple risings. These are steps in the baking process that aren't routine to us cookie/cupcake/whoopie pie-makers.
Yet, what most of us don't realize, is that the rewards of bread-making are so fan-freakin-tastic. The smells, the taste, the texture. All worth it.
For week 30 of the baking challenge I was to make a sweet bread, and since I had been invited to a friend's house for a Shabbat dinner, the timing couldn't have been better. I had made the recipe before but my braiding turned out pretty wonky. This time, I decided to go for a three-strand braid, under the direction of this site. Braid, brush, rise for an hour.
Brush the loaves again with a second egg coating, then enjoy the next 30 - 45 minutes as the smell of challah dances through your home.
Chocolate Chip Challah
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 2 loaves
1 1/2 packages active yeast (about 11 grams)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar (113 grams)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips, (per challah), optional
1 large egg (for coating)
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in 1 3/4 cups of warm water. Whisk together with vegetable oil until well combined.
Beat in each of the 4 eggs, individually. Stir in salt. Add flour, one cup at a time, stirring between each addition. When dough starts to form a ball, (albeit scraggly), turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth. (Make sure to incorporate all the flour bits that may have stuck to the edge of the mixing bowl.)
Spray bowl with cooking spray, and return dough to mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for at least an hour.
When dough has just about doubled in size, punch it down. Roll the dough over, so that the top of the ball becomes coated in the cooking spray. Cover again with plastic wrap, and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. (Can't wait? Replace the chilled overnight rise with a 30 minute warm rise).
Remove bowl from fridge, bring the dough back to room temperature. (About 30 minutes). Knead the chocolate chips into the challah dough. Separate dough into two portions, (for the separate loaves).
Take each dough portion, and divide into 3 equal sized dough balls. (These will become your braid-strands). Roll each small dough ball into a long dough strand, about 12 - 15 inches long, (use the long edge of your baking sheet for comparison). Place the three strands side-by-side, parallel to one another, and about halfway down from the top, begin a 3-strand braid. Braid the strands together until you've reached the bottom, then flip the entire braid over so that you can braid the unfinished portion.
Once you have a braided loaf, place it on a greased baking sheet, making sure to leave plenty of room for challah #2. (Leaving a 2-inch gap between loaves). Repeat braid process for the remaining half of dough. Beat the final egg and coat the braided loaves with the egg wash. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let braids rise for an hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush loaves again with egg wash. Bake in the middle rack for 30 - 40 minutes, or until golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool challah on racks before serving.