For me, there is a direct correlation between how many items are on my to-do list, and how much I want to bake bread. The more stuff I really should be doing, the more I find myself thinking about diving into the long, meditative process of mixing, kneading, rising, shaping, rising, and baking bread. It’s wrong. Very wrong. Bread isn’t difficult to make, don’t get me wrong–but you do have to schedule yourself around it, be attentive to it, and certainly at some point set everything aside for it, because when it’s ready, it’s ready! It’s not the thing you make when you are aiming to be productive and focused and to actually complete the many tasks you have set out for yourself, the non-bread baking tasks, the ones that involve actual income and bills and customers and important, not-to-be-ignored type stuff.
Today was definitely, unequivocally, a bread day for me. It’s been a while, a couple months in fact, but today was the day where the Business To Do list and the Personal To Do list were overflowing, and the Staller and Procrastinater in me just plain took over. Which means it’s going to be a late night, and there will be more to do tomorrow, and less College Game Day for me. But I’ll take it. Because I have Challah to get me through.
I apologize for no in-process photos of this–those are going to disappear until after the holidays, alas–but I can offer up links to video tutorial, here . It’s the least I can do. Because you really should make challah. AFTER you do those other things that are on your list.
PS this recipe makes TWO loaves, one to eat immediately, and one to break up and leave out to turn stale. Now why would you do that? Tune in next week to find out! And it is NOT turkey stuffing (or dressing), I swear.
Traditional Challah (from my old soccer buddy, Meg, circa 2005)
- 2 packets active dry yeast
- 3 large eggs (plus one egg yolk for glaze)
- 1-2/3 cup warm water
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 6-7 cups bread flour
In a large mixing bowl combine yeast, 2/3 cup water, 1 tsp sugar. Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes or until it builds up a froth. If it doesn’t build up a froth within 10 minutes, either your yeast is dead or your water was too hot. Dump it out and try again!
Once the mixture is frothy, add in the remaining water and sugar, as well as the eggs, salt, olive oil, honey, and 4 cups of the flour. Mix thoroughly. Don’t do what I did and forget that remaining cup of water. It’s pretty important.
Slowly mix in the remaining 3 cups of flour until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or counter top and knead for 5-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Form into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl, turned to coat with the oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a dishtowel. Place in a warm place (85 degrees, so use a heating pad or heat vent, or oven as needed) and allow to rise until doubled, 1-2 hours.
Punch down the dough to get rid of air bubbles, then divide into two pieces. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Divide each part into 3 pieces, and roll each into a long “worm” about 1.5 inches in diameter. Braid the three strands together and tuck the ends under to form each loaf (two loaves total).
Place each loaf on a greased cookie sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and a dish towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350. Mix the egg yolk with a teaspoon of warm water to make a glaze, and brush over the top of the loaves. Bake the loaves for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown on top, and sounding hollow when the bottom is tapped.