This bread, this BREAD, THIS BREAD is to me one of the best breads out there. It triumphs over even the holey bagel (see what i did there) and even the cheapy Hovis when you require that bog standard white slice.
But this bread means more to me than just bread, it represent to me everything that Jew-ish food is and stands for and how food and family sit at the heart of our culture.
Every Friday night dinner this loaf was present at my Friday night dinner, and rightly so. Perfectly plaited soft, sweet and salty, I would dunk this bread in my mother’s chicken soup or gravy. A Saturday and Sunday morning breakfast would consist of eating the rest of the loaf. I then longed for five days bread that wasn’t challah to be replaced with the glorious shiny bigger and better variety.
Toasted with marmite and cheese is still a personal highlight, but if it’s still warm and squidgy, smoked cod’s roe slathered on top or lashings of butter with a nonoily smoked salmon will suffice.
This bread is the big daddy of the bread world. Brioche, the French cousin, ain’t got nothing on this …. au revoir le francais.
Now onto the matter of baking. Any baking recipe I will ALWAYS give credit where due, I tested five different recipes out before perfecting this one. Why this recipe is SO GREAT is it … the original can be found here …http://allrecipes.com/recipe/most-amazing-challah/ (I have altered some of the quantities that to make two large loaves).
A/ IT WORKS, AGAIN, AND AGAIN AND AGIN
B/ IT DOESN’T NEED TO RISE TWICE
C/ ALL OF THOSE THAT HAVE SAMPLED HAVE LOVED IT (at one point I thought I may start a bread business.)
I make my dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook. I highly recommend, it really does all the hard for you. If you don’t have a stand mixer, just be prepared for a bit of arm action to work the glutens.
I top with nigella seeds – these are a must … if you can’t find them in a supermarket you can purchase them online. Described to have aflavour such as oregano, black pepper and onion.
- 15g fast acting yeast
- 475 ml warm water
- 20g salt
- 75g white sugar
- 110g dairy-free margarine, melted
- Two large eggs
- 875g bread flour
- 2 Eggs
- 25g Nigella Seeds
- Maldon or Hawaiian sea salt
- Crushed Black pepper.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a large bowl, and stir gently to moisten the yeast.
- Stir in sugar, margarine, and 2 eggs, and beat well. (DON’T ADD THE SALT YET)
- Let the yeast froth up a little then add slowly the flour with the mixer on a slow – medium speed.
- Add the flour until it is tacky but not wet.
- Now at full speed, holding your stand mixer (mine once went mad and fell off the counter) work the dough for 8 -10 minutes until it is totally pliable and can be stretched. It should feel warm.
- NOW add the salt and mix finally for 30 seconds – minute.
- Grease baking sheets or line them with parchment paper and set aside.
- Transfer the dough to a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Place in a warm area and the dough is ready when it has nearly doubled in size. This will take about 1 1/2 -2 hours. If you need to go out do it now.
- When the bread as proved, carefully tip it onto a floured surface and cut it in half.
- Cut each piece into thirds for 3-strand braided loaves. Working on a floured surface, roll the small dough pieces into ropes about the thickness of your thumb and about 12 inches long. Ropes should be fatter in the middle and thinner at the ends.
- Preheat your oven to 350oc
- Pinch three ropes together at the top and braid them. Starting with the strand to the right, move it to the left over the middle strand (that strand becomes the new middle strand.) Take the strand farthest to the left, and move it over the new middle strand. Continue braiding, alternating sides each time, until the loaf is braided, and pinch the ends together and fold them underneath for a neat look. Repeat for the remaining loaf or loaves if you are making smaller ones.
- Move the loaves onto the baking sheets. Now glaze. Break two eggs into a cup and whisk. Using a pastry brush glaze the loaf. The sprinkle generously salt and pepper and nigella seeds.
- Place in the oven and start baking for around 25-30 minutes.
- Halfway through the baking, glaze again and place back in the oven. Bake until golden brown.
- Remove and cool …. then EAT.