Tender, eggy challah bread is lovely on the Thanksgiving table. Not only is it pretty, but it harkens back to my mom’s yeasty homemade crescent rolls—for about one-tenth of the effort. Yes, challah dough is surprisingly forgiving and easy to work with. From start to finish, this loaf can be on the table in two hours. To speed things up even more, I measure everything out the night before Thanksgiving, so it’s ready to pull together in the morning.
(FYI: It is killing me as I just envisioned the perfect smell of turkey roasting in one oven while bread bakes in the other…)
If you end up with leftover bread—score! Challah French toast is the best ever. The honey-rosemary butter that played nicely with the turkey, squash, and stuffing plays just as nicely alongside maple syrup and bacon.
Makes one large loaf
4 c. bread flour (unbleached and unbromated)
1 Tbsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
1 c. warm water (not hot, or it will kill the yeast)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. oil (almond or avocado oil is nice, but any neutral vegetable oil will do)
3 room temperature organic eggs, lightly beaten
soft butter (or extra oil) for kneading
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
Coarse salt (optional)
This is about a two-hour process, from start to finish.
Put flour and salt in the bowl of a mixer, fitted with a dough hook. In a small bowl, stir yeast into warm water. Whisk in sugar and oil, then eggs. With mixer running on low, slowly pour liquid into the flour/salt mixture. When all the liquid is incorporated, the dough should be somewhat sticky. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and silky. Coat your hands and a cutting board with soft butter (or, if you don’t want to use dairy, then oil). Transfer dough to the cutting board and knead (it’s sticky at first, less so as you knead), using more butter on your hands and/or board as necessary, until dough is very smooth and springy, 5-10 minutes. Oil a large bowl and add dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise, until doubled in size, 30-45 minutes.
Have an ungreased baking sheet ready. Punch dough down and turn out again on the cutting board. Shape loosely into a cylinder and cut into three equal pieces. Using your hands, stretch and roll each section into a 15-inch-long cylinder, laying them side-by-side on the baking sheet. To begin braiding, on one end, pinch the three rolls together and tuck under a bit. Braid loosely and evenly (you can undo it and start again if you mess up) and when you come to the end, pinch the ends together and tuck under, so the braid matches on both ends. Straighten the braid. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (spray a little non-stick cooking spray on the plastic, if you like) and let rise again for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle lightly with coarse salt, and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until challah is golden brown.
Photo by Stephanie Meyer
Makes 1 cup
1/2 lb. excellent – Hope Creamery – salted butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp. locally sourced honey (or more to taste)
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
Pulse butter, honey, and rosemary together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.