You’re probably tired of me talking about the boule recipe I’ve been making, which is now a staple in our house. I can’t tell you how many loaves I’ve made since. And look, I’ve even ventured outside my favorite scallop pattern.
As flavorful as that bread is, it was only a matter of time before my sweet tooth started asking for something different.
Everyone in my mom’s side of the family has a sweet tooth. I have a cousin who used to keep a bag of chocolates near her pillow, in case she had a craving in the middle of the night. (She’s much better now. She keeps them on the bench by the foot of her bed.) And my uncle has been known to stash candy bars in various places around his house—his desk drawer, inside his briefcase, in the library, in the bedroom … he’d keep it in his car, if it wouldn’t melt in the heat.
Now that I think about it, maybe we just have a food tooth, since we’re pretty much the same way with anything that tastes good. I guess it’s just much harder to stash, say, steak or paella inside a drawer or nightstand.
Of course, I’ve been known to sleep next to a giant bar of Toblerone, so I’m not judging.
Now that we’ve established the fact that I come from a long line of omnivores with a mild obsession with food, let’s get back to my bread. A few days ago, I decided to try the challah recipe from Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day. Let me back up a bit. I initially planned to do the brioche recipe, but saw that one batch (keep in mind that a batch of dough makes multiple loaves) required three sticks of butter. Now, of course I’m not one to balk at the thought of using three sticks of butter, since I did, after all, share my “The Bar” recipe with all of you. But I just wasn’t quite ready to go from the boule to something as rich as that, so I settled instead on the challah recipe, thinking I could also use it as sandwich bread.
The challah recipe is an enriched dough recipe, so it has honey, butter, and eggs. The method is pretty much the same, and although I was a bit concerned about the dough being wetter than the boule dough, the book’s authors assured me (via Twitter) that the dough will feel better after a bit of refrigeration. Wet or not, this dough smelled amazing. I was sorely tempted to taste it unbaked.
When the dough was ready, I followed the instructions to create a braided loaf. After about an hour and a half of resting, I brushed it with an egg wash and sprinkled it with sesame seeds. Then into the oven it went.
My kitchen was filled with the aroma of this sweet, rich bread. What I loved about it was that I didn’t have to wait too long to sample it, unlike the boule which should really rest until it comes to room temperature. I took a few photos as soon as it came out of the oven, then broke off a piece to taste.
This bread was light, moist, slightly sweet, and incredibly delicious on its own, without any butter or jam. It was soft, almost with the texture of light potato bread, and I love that it has honey instead of regular sugar. It’s much easier to bake, too. Lower temperature, on a cookie sheet, and no steam needed.
The loaf practically disappeared in half an hour, which gave me an excuse to make more.
Yep, they worked as rolls, too. I made these with the intention of bringing them over to a dinner party.
I stacked them nice and pretty, and was already imagining how big of a hit they’d be.
I’m still imagining it, because these rolls? They … uhm … never quite made it out of the house.
And if we’re friends, you wouldn’t go checking my drawers and nightstands.
(with permission from the authors of Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day)
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (or a neutral-tasting oil, such as canola), plus more for greasing the cookie sheet
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 tablespoon water)
poppy or sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
Makes four 1-pound loaves.
To make the dough, mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, melted butter or oil, and water in a bowl or container (at least 5-qt in size) that you can cover later. Then, using a wooden spoon, mix in the flour. Again, no need to knead this. (You can also mix this in a 14-cup food processor or a mixer with a dough hook attachment.) Mix until there are no more dry streaks of flour left.
Cover (but not airtight) and let rest at room temperature for about 2 hours. The dough will rise and then fall down a bit. When it does, it’s done and you can either use it immediately or store it in the refrigerator. The dough is quite sticky and easier to handle cold. (Since this is an enriched dough, plan to use it within 5 days. Beyond that, freeze it in 1-pound portions and it will last for up to 4 weeks in the freezer if stored in an airtight container. If you do freeze the dough, make sure you defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before using it.)
When ready to bake, take a cookie sheet and either grease it, line it with parchment paper, or lay a silicone mat in it. Dust some flour on the surface of the dough and take a 1-pound chunk of dough (about the size of a grapefruit). Dust it with a bit more flour and quickly shape it the way you would a boule, gently pulling the sides of the dough toward the bottom while rotating the dough. It should take you less than a minute to get a round shape with a smooth surface.
To make a braided loaf, divide the dough into three portions and roll each portion into a long rope. If the dough resists shaping, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. When you have the ropes shaped, braid them starting from the center and working toward one end, then turn it over and work again toward the other end. This gives you a more evenly-shaped braid. (To make the rolls, simply take small 1-inch balls of dough, roll them gently, and place three balls in each well of a well-greased cupcake or muffin pan.)
Let the loaf or rolls rest and rise on the cookie sheet for at least 40 minutes if fresh, and at least 1 hour and 20 minutes if it was refrigerated. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If baking it in a cookie sheet and not a stone (which is what I did), the oven only needs to preheat for about 5 minutes. Brush the dough with the egg wash, then sprinkle it with the poppy or sesame seeds.
Bake the loaf near the center of the oven for about 25 minutes, adjusting the time if you are baking different-sized loaves. (For the rolls, I baked them for about 20 minutes.) When done, the challah will be golden brown, and the braids near the center of the loaf will give resistance when pressed. Challah doesn’t have the hard crust of a boule because of the fat in the dough (and we didn’t use steam either). And okay, you’re supposed to let it cool first before eating, but I couldn’t wait.
Trust me, if this came out of your oven, you wouldn’t be able to wait either.