We volunteered to bring a loaf of challah to Adam’s family’s Friday night dinner last night, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out – but more with appearances than taste, this time. We’ve made it before, but always just using the recipe that came with our bread machine – a pretty basic recipe that used a lot of butter. We subbed in margarine to keep it parve for the usually-meat-heavy-family dinners, but it kept that really buttery light texture that was very, very good. As my sister-in-law Laura commented last night, it made it have more of a croissant texture, which was just lovely.
We used a recipe from a new cookbook this time, which instead of using sugar and margarine, it used vegetable oil and honey, and two eggs plus an egg yolk (the other just used two whole eggs). There was one other big difference in this challah – but only because of how I made it. I didn’t have a big enough chunk of time on Friday to devote to making it from start to finish, so I actually made the dough Thursday night, and put it in a tightly covered bowl in the refrigerator. I was a bit worried about that, but what I’d read online actually suggested that bread can benefit from that. The idea is that because it rises much slower, the flavours have more time to intensify. That worked for me – my only other option was picking up store bought challah, so may as well give it a shot.
Friday morning I was a bit worried. It had risen a lot overnight. Easily it had already doubled, and I wasn’t going to be braiding it until about 4pm. I released some of the pressure from the plastic wrap and re-wrapped it, and left for the day. Luckily when I got home it hadn’t risen much more in all that time, so I got to work.
I probably should’ve given it time to get back to room temperature, but I was in a bit of a rush, so to punch down and do the last knead, I put it back into the bread maker. It got a lot of the air out of it and it shrunk back to a manageable size – so I got on with braiding the still pretty cold dough.
I wanted to do a slightly fancier braid this time – so I’d enlisted the help of YouTube to learn how to do a six-strand braid. Lynne had also requested I bring a smaller challah bun, so I found a way to do a “braid” only using one strand. I think it worked out pretty well!
I let it rise a little longer than usual because at that point the dough was still pretty cold. To speed it up I turned the oven on so that it was at least sitting on something warm. After about an hour and a half, it had puffed up pretty nicely and was ready to bake. I glazed it with a bit of egg and sprinkled on sesame seeds and popped it into a 350°F oven for about 40 minutes (the little one came out after about 20), and it came out all golden and beautiful.
Overall – a good loaf. Definitely pretty, and generally pretty tasty. I’m not sure I’ll make this recipe again, though I may want to try it without the refrigeration step. It just wasn’t as light and well, buttery, as the version that used margarine instead of vegetable oil.