Challah loaf

When I was a child, like a lot of children born in the 70s and 80s, I was a big fan of books by Judy Blume. I recall reading her semi-autobiography “Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself” with vivid interest. The book document the life of a Jewish family in Post War America and as such they mention various foods that as a 10 year old I had seldom heard of. For instance upon reading the quote:

Have some challah, fresh from the oven

I recall asking one of my parents what on earth challah was. Anyway myself, Miss M and Miss B made challah load as part of our baking club some months ago. However, being short of time meant that it didn’t really have time to rise or prove properly resulting in quite a close texture in the loaf. I made this again on one of my days off from work a few weeks ago and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a loaf of bread so fast. Half a loaf was gone in 2 days! This bread is delicious with just butter (simple pleasures!) but it also works well with a variety of sweet and savoury toppings. My particular favourites during what is fondly remembered as “bread gorging week” were good quality raspberry jam and (very much not kosher) ham.

To make your own challah you will need:

500g strong white bread flour

1 sachet instant yeast (or 1 teaspoon if you’re using a container of the stuff)

25g caster sugar

10g salt

30g butter warmed to room temperature

3 medium eggs (2 to make the dough, one as glaze)

50ml whole milk (I actually used Hazelnut milk though and it was fine)

180ml cool water (approx, you may need more or less depending on your flour)

 

In a large mixing bowl add your flour with your salt and sugar at one end and your yeast at the other. Cut your butter into small cubes and add to the mixing bowl along with your milk and two of your eggs. Turn this around with your fingers – or use your food processor with the dough hook attachment. Gradually add your water until the mixture comes away from the bowl and you have a rough dough which is nice and soft.

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Knead for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until your dough is smooth and elastic.

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Allow to rise for 2-3 hours until the dough has more or less doubled in size.

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Knock your dough back and divide into three equal pieces (don’t spend ages getting them exactly the same, life is far too short). Roll into long thin sausages of equal length (at least 20cm). Join together the 3 dough sausages at one end and plait like you would plait somebody’s hair. Men, do not be afraid of plaiting! My own father plaited my hair when I was a child! At least your plaiting will result in tasty bread and not me telling you your sandwiches aren’t as nice as when my mum makes them.

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Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper or silicone sheets. Beat your third egg and brush onto your dough as a glaze. Leave your bread to prove for another hour.

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Preheat your oven to 200°C during the whole proving process.  Bake your loaf for 20-25 minutes until it sounds hollow when you tap it.

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Try not to eat too much bread at once or you will end up with a bread gut like I did! (Mind you a few spinning classes and I was more or less back to normal).

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This bread is a particular crowd pleaser so please share this gem with your friends.

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