Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of rain droplets hitting against my window. So, the planned run turned into a spend your morning in bed kind of day. At first I was a little bummed about the snappy weather but as the morning progressed, I was giddy and felt spoiled to have a good chunk of Saturday morning all to myself in bed with this book. The afternoon slowly rolled around yet the weather remained gloomy and naturally I wanted to bake a bread. If you have been reading my posts lately, you probably are aware of my recent bread issues – case in point this and this. This particular rainy morning I wanted to make a beautiful loaf that would waft a cozy, sweet smell all over my apartment. I could not think of anything more beautiful than a braided challah with cinnamon and brown sugar (which by the way is a straight up inspiration from Sarah’s loaf).
Challah is a Jewish bread traditionally eaten during the Sabbath and holidays. I am not knowledgeable on the religious significance of challah but I have always loved the way it looked and its pillow-soft slightly sweet center with a nice crust is irresistible. Challah can be made in different shapes, sizes, and have different number of braids all of which have a religious significance according to this post. The three braids (the one I did) symbolizes truth, peace, and justice – neat stuff right? At a first glance, the braids may look little intricate but don’t let that discourage you like I was for a long time. I am so happy that I finally dived into making my own challah..and it actually came out beautiful, no? I am sure the challah is delicious on its own but I jazzed it up with cinnamon and brown sugar for both flavor and lovely smell. While the presence of cinnamon and brown sugar was mildly present at each bite, I would have liked it to be a little bit more prominent but everyone who tried it said they really enjoyed it just the way it was. Either way, the bread is pretty awesome and you should have challah on your next baking agenda!
The dough is pretty simple and straight-forward. Unlike other bread I have made before, challah is enriched with eggs and oil with a little bit of honey/sugar for the sweetness. I love the fact that you don’t need any other special equipment/ingredients besides your clean hands and a workable surface in your kitchen. The total rise and baking time is about three hours so it is pretty doable on the weekends which means freshly baked challah at your disposal for snacking, with coffee, and for great things like French toast…I used the basic challah dough recipe from Molly which is adapted from Food 52.
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- ¾ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting (all purpose is fine)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar (honey is fine)
- ⅓ cups vegetable or canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- For the egg wash:
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon
- For the filling:
- 2-3 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of water
- In a small bowl, add yeast with ½ cup warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes or until it forms a creamy mixture.
- In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
- In a medium bowl, mix remaining ¼ cup of water, agave nectar, oil, and eggs.
- Once the yeast is proofed, slowly add it to the flour mixture, then pour in wet ingredients. Use a large wooden spoon to mix the dough. Prepare a well floured work surface to empty the dough for kneading. Use your hand to knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and becomes smooth. It took me atleast 4-5 minutes.
- Generously oil the bowl previously used to mix the flour and transfer the dough back to it.
- Cover it with a towel and place it in a slightly warm/dark area for about 2 hours or until it doubles in size
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon with water and keep it aside.
- Divide dough into three equal circles and roll each part into a 1-foot log then flatten each log to about 3 inches wide.
- Brush each flat log with cinnamon and brown sugar mixture very generously. Then roll the log lengthwise like a jellyroll sealing the ends then braid. Once the braiding is complete, gently brush the outside with cinnamon and brown sugar mixture as well.
- Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper and place the loaf on it.
- Quickly beat an egg with water to make a egg wash and brush it all over the loaf.
- Bake the loaf for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the bread is cooked through.
- Remove the oven and allow it cool before slicing into it (which by the way is hard to resist).
PS. I did run 8 miles on Sunday as planned and celebrated the longest mile so far with a thick slice of this challah with cinnamon and brown sugar.
How do you usually spend a rainy weekend morning?
Have you tried making your own challah?