Buoyed by my no-knead bread success, I decided to try my hand at a challah recipe I’ve had my eye on. This is not like regular challah; it’s a cool fusion challah from blogger/cookbook author/Food Network chef Molly Yeh. Molly is half Jewish and half Chinese and this twist on challah (get it…twist…because challah is braided) is a perfect combination of her two cultures. Her blog post about it is here, but the full recipe is found here.
Ok so all baking is not as easy as that no-knead bread. Challah is much more difficult. I was stressed virtually the entire time and sent no fewer than 17 texts to Lindsay so she could walk me through the process and talk me off the ledge. That said, in the end, I properly baked this challah and it tasted delicious so I’d say it was all worth it.
Thanks to my challah spirit guide (Lindsay), I knew to give my yeast more time to proof (step 1, below). How do you know when it’s done proofing? The fizz should cover the whole surface. She described it as the top of an ice cream float or the head on a freshly poured beer. That made so much more sense. [Proofed yeast pictured above.]
Ok, Goldilocks, you’ll need 3 bowls: small, medium, and large. In the small bowl, proof 1 tbsp yeast (1 packet) in 1/2 cup warm water mixed with 1 teaspoon of sugar. While yeast is proofing, mix 3 c. flour, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tbsp sugar in the large bowl. In the medium bowl, mix 1/4 c. water, 2 tbsp honey, 1/3 c. vegetable or canola oil, and 2 eggs. Once the yeast has finished proofing (aka looks like that foamy beer), add it to the flour mixture, followed by the wet ingredients. Mix with a large wooden spoon until dough is thick and sticky. You don’t even need to turn on a mixer for this! Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand until it’s nice and smooth (and no longer sticky). Now move that dough ball to an oiled bowl (just use the large one from before) and cover it with a damp towel. Let the dough rise for about two hours – when you come back to it, it’ll have doubled in size. Preheat oven to 375. Divide dough into three equal parts (eyeball it) and then roll each part into a 1-foot log. Gently flatten each log so that it is about 3 inches wide. Brush each with toasted sesame oil and then sprinkle with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and scallions. Roll them up length wise and pinch them closed, then braid. Place the loaf on a parchment or Silpat/silicone lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and black pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the challah is cooked through.
I was so nervous about it being raw in the middle that I left it in the oven for an extra few minutes. It was nowhere near burnt and still tasted incredible, but I could have taken it out a minute or two earlier (you know, listened to the recipe) and it would have been perfect.
Cue all Jews and Chinese food jokes…but in all seriousness, this is a truly tasty challah. Shabbat begins at sundown tonight and this would be a great addition to your table. It only takes a few hours start to finish so you could easily whip it up in time for a festive supper.
Was it the easiest thing I’ve ever made? No…but that’s probably largely due to the fact that I’m more of a cook and less of a baker. I can tell this is one of those recipes that truly gets easier every time. And how wonderful would it be to be able to make challah for my family on Friday nights?! This is one of those things I would love to turn into a real tradition chez Neudeck. A tradition with a twist is my kind of tradition.