Challah is traditionally a beautiful, egg-brushed, braided loaf that is synonymous with the Sabbath and Jewish tradition. Since it is tender, soft bread, it tastes good any day of the week and adapts fairly well to a bread machine. Of course, the result from a machine is vastly different from what you would get at a bakery, but delicious nonetheless.
- Crumb: Medium-fine
- Density: Medium; thicker than commercial sandwich bread but less dense than French bread
- Texture: Pleasantly chewy, pulls apart easily, minimal resistance to a bread knife
- Staling: 3-5 days before it is too stale to enjoy without toasting
- Crust: Soft, thin
- Molding: Over a week
- Settings: Basic setting; 2-pound loaf; light crust
Yeast is a particularly fickle friend when baking bread, and this recipe is no exception. Originally, I started developing it with 20 grams of yeast, and backed it down because the loaf would collapse just before the baking cycle initiated.
During testing, the range went from 15 grams to 21 grams. 17 grams seemed to be the happy middle ground, but I am not convinced that I have it quite right. So why publish? Every machine is different, and everybody who tries this recipe will use different ingredients than I do. Hence, some adjustments will be necessary on the baker's end. Step five has a few tips to help you adjust the yeast to work in your machine.
The recipe - 2 pound loaf
- 200g (1 cup) Water, 118-125* degrees Fahrenheit
- 62g (1/8 cup) Coconut Oil, refined
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 38g (2Tbsp + 2 tsp) Cane Sugar
- 10g (1.5 tsp) Salt
- 500g (3 3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp) Bread Flour
- 17g (1 Tbsp + 2 1/8 tsp) Dry Active Yeast
- Optional: 1 Tablespoon Butter (Yes, I know this makes the bread non-Kosher)
1. Attach the paddle(s) to the pan and ensure the pan is properly seated in the machine.
2. Add the water. *Note about water temperatures: Check the manual to see if your machine has a pre-heating cycle. If it is 10-20 minutes, the temperature suggested above is perfect. If not, use water that is 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Add the ingredients in whatever order your machine calls for. If unknown, add in this order: water, eggs, coconut oil, salt, sugar and flour. Make a long, shallow well in the flour and pour the yeast into the concave area.
4. Select a basic or French bread cycle. Set the loaf size to 1lb and crust color to light. Start the baking cycle.
5. Monitor the loaf as it approaches baking time; watch to see if it collapses. If so, reduce the yeast the next time you make the recipe by 1 or 2 grams. Do not change the amounts of anything else when you tweak the yeast.
6. After baking completes, allow the bread to stay in the machine for about 10 minutes.
7. Then remove and invert the pan; shake it a bit to encourage the loaf to slide out. Optional: Brush the crust with butter. Hit every side
8. Pop the loaf into a large ziplock type bag. Close it up. Allow the bread to cool completely in its little sealed-up environment. Once cool, remove the bread and dry the excess condensation with a clean towel.
9. Slice off a piece and enjoy!
Ideas to tinker around with:
Use the dough setting and instead of baking into a loaf, makes for lovely hamburger buns, cloverleaf rolls and butterflake rolls. Another idea is to shape it into a boule (round), then hollow it out and fill with a delicious dip, such as artichoke dip. Roll it out and turn it into cinnamon rolls, orange rolls or some kind of sticy-icky nutty roll.
Alternatively, hand shape it into a traditional braided loaf. If this is your first, look for a video or diagram that makes sense to you, and try a four-strand braid first. Step up to a six strand weave once you are happy with the look and uniformity of the four-strand loaf.