Pretty Edible Stylist takes us back to her Jewish roots with this comforting recipe for Challah; the mildly decadent and seriously delicious sweet bread…
Traditional Challah is often studded with raisins and served at New Year. If this addition tickles your fancy, you can easily add raisins or sultanas instead of the chocolate chunks. Straight loaves of braided challah are eaten throughout the year and round challahs typically takes its place on the Sabbath.
Total time about 1 hour, plus 2 ½ hours rising
Makes 2 loaves
3 ¾ tsp active dry yeast (about 1 ½ packages or 11 grams)
1 tbsp caster sugar
350ml lukewarm water
125ml olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
100g caster or granulated sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
1.1kg plain flour
75g dark chocolate, roughly chopped into chunks (amount for one challah)
Poppy seeds and sesame seeds, for sprinkling
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tbsp sugar in water; set aside for 5 minutes until a bit foamy.
2. Whisk oil into the yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining 100g sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading)
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150C, fan 130C then turned off. Punch down the dough (a warning; this part is unbelievably satisfying!), cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. At this point, you can knead the chocolate chunks into one or both of the challah – if you’re using them – before forming the loaves. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Take the outer left strand and move it to the right over two, under one, then over two, then leave it positioned as the new last strand. Continue this process until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place the loaves onto two separate greased caking sheets.
5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. At this stage, you can either freeze the breads or let them rise for another hour.
6. If you are baking them immediately, preheat oven to 190C, fan 170C and brush loaves again with egg wash. Sprinkle the top of the bread with seeds. (I like to use poppy seeds for the traditional plain-style loaf and sesame for the chocolate) If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
7. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool loaves on two wire racks. Freezes well. (I sometimes freeze cut slices for ease)
Recipe, photography & styling: Natalie Seldon
Follow Natalie on instagram @prettyediblestylist