Chris and I have been dating for about three and a half years and living together for seven months. Since we already have a dog, we decided it was time to take the next big step in our relationship and purchase our first grownup kitchen appliance (what exactly were you thinking?). The one kitchen accessory that I have been dying to own—but don’t want to have to wait until I’m married to receive it from a wedding registry—is the KitchenAid standing mixer. You know, the one that all the TV chefs have conveniently displayed on their TV kitchen sets. These mixers come with a hefty price tag, however, so I left the bargaining up to Chris, a deal finding connoisseur. I can’t decide who was more elated with our final purchase (a few hundred dollars below market retail price, may I add); me for all the recipes I get to experiment with, or Chris for being able to taste said experiments.
After warming up the mixer with two different types of cookie recipes (my healthy subconscious is not enthused), I wanted to challenge myself for dinner last night. Since I can’t seem to get enough carbohydrates as of late, I decided Tuesday’s dinner would comprise of a hearty soup and some bread. One problem: I have no bread pan. Solution: challah—a traditional Jewish braided loaf of bread.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to try challah, I pity you. My Mother converted to Judaism before marrying my Stepfather 14 years ago. In turn, a whole new set of cultural traditions ensued in our household (I knew what Christmakkuh was long before the OC made it trendy). So lucky for me, I’ve been eating challah for well over a decade. In thanks to a job as a camp counselor at a Jewish summer camp, I learned how to braid challah, but baking any type of bread from scratch has always been that novel idea I would try sometime in the future.
In addition to the fact that homemade bread is an exceptionally easy process with a standing mixer, I don’t think I will ever forget the look on Chris’ face when he tasted the bread fresh from the oven. He was so impressed you would have thought I told him he could eat bacon with every meal for the rest of his life (not exactly a kosher-friendly lifestyle). Needless to say, the loafs of challah were consumed joyfully and Chris is already asking for more. The first words out of his mouth this morning were, “I want more of that bread!”
Ingredients (adapted from http://bontempsbeignet.blogspot.com):
-4.5 Cups of Bread Flour (all purpose will work as well)
-3/4 cup warm water
-1 packet of dry yeast
-2 eggs beaten
-1/2 cup of warm milk
-1/4 cup of butter at room temp.
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 tsp kosher salt
-1 egg beaten for the glaze
-Combine ¾ cup of warm water and the dry yeast and let the yeast soften. In the meantime, warm milk (either in a microwave or on the stovetop) until a simmer.
-In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, salt, and warm milk until a majority of the butter is melted. Pour the contents into the bowl of a standing mixer along with 2 cups of the flour.
-With the dough attachment connected, mix at a lower speed until well blended. Slowly add the two beaten eggs, yeast, and the remaining flower. Once the ingredients are well blended, turn the mixer on to a medium-high speed and let it work the dough for about three minutes.
-While the final stage of the mixing is going on, grease a large bowl (big enough to let the dough rise). Once the dough is finished, put it in the bowl as evenly as possible and then flip the dough so both sides have made contact with the greased bowl.
-Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for at least an hour and a half.
-Once the dough has had time to rise, separate it in half to make two loafs of challah.
-For each loaf, divide the dough into equal thirds. Sprinkle flour onto a clean surface and roll and shape each third into long breadstick-like strands of equal length. Touch the tips of the elongated strands of dough together and start braiding. Don’t be afraid to work and reposition the braids as you see fit. Repeat with the second loaf.
-Place the braided loaves on a greased baking sheet. With the remaining beaten egg, glaze the loaves with a cooking brush.
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the crust appears golden brown—times will vary depending on the oven and the size of the loaf.
-Let cool for at least five minutes and enjoy.
Challah back now!