I did a lot of experimenting with my bread machine a few weeks ago, and one of the breads I made for the first time was Challah bread. Using a recipe from Sonia Allison’s The Complete Bread Machine Cookbook, I made the dough in the machine and then shaped it by hand. After letting it rise for a second time, I baked it. The shaping part does need a little work. In fact, I joked my ‘plait’ was more like a ‘splat’ - but that will come with practice. Regardless of how it looked, the bread tasted wonderful.
Challah bread is Jewish Sabbath bread, and is traditionally glazed with beaten egg and sprinkled with poppy seeds. The plait shape is also traditional, although the dough is sometimes shaped into a circle, particularly at Rosh Hashana when it may also be glazed with honey to symbolise a sweet new year. I went with the idea of sweet when I made this loaf, glazing it with beaten egg and sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar. It was gorgeous spread with soft butter, and also delicious when we toasted it a couple days later. This bread does keep fresh longer than most other breads, and stayed lovely and soft.
It’s easy to make in a bread machine, and I like to think that the eggs make it more nutritious than other breads as well. This is definitely going to become a bread that I make regularly. I think the version with poppy seeds, or even just a simple egg glaze, would make fantastic sandwiches. I am going to try making both sweet and savoury rolls with this dough as well.
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons oil (I used mild olive oil)
3 cups strong white bread flour
1½ teaspoons salt (I only used 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1½ teaspoons instant or fast acting dried yeast (I used 2¼ teaspoons)
beaten egg yolk to glaze
poppy seeds for sprinkling (optional)
(I used cinnamon sugar -1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon)
Break the eggs into a measuring cup, beat them lightly and make up to 1¼ cups with water. Beat together lightly. Pour into the bread maker bucket. Add the oil and half the flour. Sprinkle with the salt and sugar and then cover with the remaining flour. Mound the yeast into the centre.
Fit the bucket into the bread maker and set the machine to the dough setting.
When the dough is ready, remove it from the bucket and knead it quickly on a floured surface. With floured hands, divide into three sections. Shape each into a 12 to 14 inch rope, tapering the ends so that each rope is thicker in the middle.
On a large greased baking tray, loosely but neatly plait the three ropes together, pinching the ends with fingers dipped in water. Cover with greased paper and let rise until doubled in size. (This took about an hour in my warm kitchen.)
Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with poppy seeds or cinnamon sugar (if using) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 375℉ or 190℃ (I set my fan oven to 170℃) until the loaf is brown and crusty. Cool on a wire rack.