“Dangerous” Challah (Egg Bread)

Growing up, my siblings and I couldn’t get enough of Challah.  For those of you who don’t know, Challah is a slightly sweet, eggy, and delightfully sinful bread.  Traditionally, Challah is served on Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) and on many Jewish holidays and special occasions (except, of course, Passover).  You might have even seen Challah on breakfast menus or in French toast recipes- it’s a great substitute for more traditional Brioche bread.

When we were little, my sisters and I would commit the ultimate Challah crime: we would dip pieces of Challah in our Manischewitz grape juice (served at most Jewish gatherings), and then eat the soggy, purple-colored bread.

I’m glad times have changed.

More recently, my next-door neighbor hand-delivered a Challah to our back door.  She had baked an extra loaf, and was kind enough to share it with us.  I remember unfolding the napkin around the warm loaf of bread, and tearing a piece off…who needs a knife?! It was everything good Challah should be, and more…warm, doughy and rich with a slightly flaky outer shell.  I had never tasted better bread in my life, and considering my long history with Challah, this was the ultimate compliment.

Now, a mere week away from moving, I knew I couldn’t leave St. Louis without my neighbor’s recipe.  I couldn’t bear the thought of living the rest of my adult life without the deliciousness of this Challah.  So a few days ago I asked her for the recipe, which is fittingly named “Dangerous Challah.” Dangerous as in, eating one piece is impossible, and eating the whole loaf in one sitting is highly probable.

However, the recipe called for a bread maker, and I only have a stand-mixer.  So I decided to follow Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Challah, while still using the “Dangerous Challah” recipe’s measurements. I also used another blogger’s website to get step-by-step instructions on how to braid the bread.

Yeast Before Adding Sugar

I loved watching the yeast dissolve in the water and interact with the sugar…I tried to get a good picture of what was happening in the bowl, but it was difficult (things were dissolving, after all…) One website I read about proofing yeast described the whole process as the yeast “gobbling up” the sugar, and then the water becoming frothy and bubbly.  Once I added the sugar, I actually saw little tornadoes form…it looked like the yeast was chasing the sugar.

Proofing the Yeast

The best part about making Challah (besides devouring it afterward) is smelling it while it’s baking.  My whole house was full of the smell of freshly baked bread, and it reminded me of happy times spent celebrating the Jewish holidays or Shabbat.

Challah Pre-Egg Wash

Challah Before Baking

So, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that the recipe has disappeared.  I left it on the counter while I was baking, and I haven’t managed to find it anywhere since…I’m guessing that it was accidentally thrown out.

In the meantime, a good guide to Challah making can be found here and here, and a guide for proofing yeast for bread-making can be found here.  I wish I could share the secret behind the “Dangerous” Challah with you…so if I manage to track down my neighbor again this week, I’ll definitely post the recipe.

* Update: I found the recipe! The following is an adaptation of the “Dangerous Challah” recipe for people without bread makers (like me).  I will also include the original version (for bread makers) at the end of the post.

“Dangerous Challah” (adapted from original recipe, Smitten Kitchen, and The Shiksa blog)

Ingredients

1 1/8 cups warm water

1 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup oil

2 eggs (one from brushing on the challah before baking)

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups flour

2 tsp bread flour (or gluten flour)

3 tsp yeast

Directions

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water.  Wait until mixture is slightly frothy and bubbling to add additional ingredients.

2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in egg, and 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.

3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth (I found that it took about 15 minutes of hand-kneading). Clean out bowl and grease it with oil, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

4. Once dough has risen for the second time, you can shape it into your desired braid.  I did a four-strand braid.  To make the braid, divide the dough into four equal parts.  Knead each part into a smooth ball and then roll each ball about 1/4 inch thick with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.  The dough should be longer than it is wide.  Then, roll each piece of dough into rope-like strands, tapering the ends (so the ends are thinner than the middle of the rope).  Each rope should be about 12″ long.  Lay the strands side by side and pinch together firmly at the top.  Then, use the “over-under-over” method to braid, starting with the strand the farthest to the right.  Take the right strand, put it over the strand directly to the left, under the next strand, and then over the last strand.  Repeat this process, always starting with the strand that is farthest to the right. Once completely braided, pinch the ends of the strands together firmly.

5. Place braided loaf on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Beat remaining egg and brush half of it on the loaf.  Cover with warm, damp cloth (do not use paper towels, as they will stick to the loaf).  Let rise for another 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

6. Just before baking, brush loaf with remaining egg. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

7. Cool loaf on a rack.  Enjoy!

“Dangerous Challah” Recipe (for people using bread makers)

Ingredients

1 1/8 cups warm water

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup oil

2 eggs (one from brushing on the challah before baking)

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups flour

2 tsp bread flour (or gluten flour)

3 tsp yeast

Directions

Put ingredients in bread maker from wet to dry.  Use dough setting.  Let the dough sit in the bread maker for about 15 minutes after the cycle is over, then pull out to shape on lightly floured surface (see above recipe for shaping technique).  After shaping, place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush with half of the beaten egg and cover with warm, damp cloth.  Let rise for about 30 minutes.  Brush again with the rest of the beaten egg.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  This recipe makes one large or two medium-sized challot.

About Emily Wasserman

Hi! My name is Emily and I'm a writer based in St. Louis. If I was stranded on an island and could request three items of food, they would be avocados, Halloumi and chocolate croissants.
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5 Responses to “Dangerous” Challah (Egg Bread)

  1. sweetaddict says:

    The braid is beatufully done!

  2. cht7 says:

    Gorgeous! This is one fabulous looking loaf!

  3. Pingback: Shanah Tovah! Or, happy belated new year. | Stomach Rumblings and World Travels

  4. Pingback: Challah French Toast | Stomach Rumblings and World Travels

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