Mastering Yeast Breads

75083518759179180_c8u1xR9c_b Winter Sunlight on Rd

What to do on a snowy day?  Bake!  After finishing 5 dozen Snickerdoodles, I decided to try the recipe for Challah Bread I found on Pinterest.  Although there aren’t too many carbs I don’t like, the honey and egg richness of Challah is one of my favorite breads.  The rich smell of baking bread is even better with three inches of snow on the ground.

CHALLAH BREAD

1 1/2 cup warm water, 110-120 degrees  [Warm in microwave and test with candy thermometer]

1 Tbsp. sugar

2 pkg. yeast or 1 1/2 Tbsp.

1/2 cup honey

1 Tbsp. oil

4 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp. salt

5 cup bread flour, plus more [I used unbleached regular flour.]

EGG WASH/TOPPING

1 egg

1 Tb. cream

Directions:

Combine warm water, sugar and yeast in large mixing bowl of stand mixer.  Stir to dissolve yeast and sugar. Let stand 5-10 minutes until foamy.  Then add honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour.  Using dough hook, turn mixer on low to medium low and mix well.  Once all mixed together add 1/2 cup of additional flour at a time with mixer running on low-medium until dough is smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, then knead with mixer for 4-5 minutes.  [In total I added 1 1/2 cups additional flour, but this will vary depending on the humidity levels in your area.]  Once done kneading, turn into a sprayed or oiled bowl and flip dough over with a large spatula to coat both sides.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap then a kitchen towel and place in warm area to rise.  It should rise for at least 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

The dough becomes very elastic.  I had to hold down on my Kitchen Aid Mixer while it was kneading to keep the mixer from rocking.  The honey I used was from a local bee keeper, which they say helps with allergies as the honey is manufactured from local plants. 

This is what the dough looked like after raising for 45 minutes.  It was twice the size of the dough ball.

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Remove wrap and towel, dump onto a lightly floured surface and cut dough into 6 pieces to make 2 braids.

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For braids, take 3 pieces of dough; roll, stretch and pull into 3 rope shapes.  On parchment-lined or greased large baking sheet, pinch three ends together and tuck under loaf, braid and pinch together the ends and tuck under.  [I used an air-bake baking sheet with an oiled French Silpat liner.]  Repeat with rest of dough and place onto same sheet pan.

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Above:  Braided loaves before second rise. 

Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in warm place for 30-45 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush raised loaves with egg wash.

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For egg wash, in a small bowl, beat well 1 egg with 1 tb. milk or cream and brush over loaves with pastry brush.  When oven is preheated, place loaves in oven; bake 30-40 minutes, until a beautiful brown color and internal temp is 160-175…remove from oven and cool on wire racks.  [I removed them from oven at 25 minutes as they were brown and firm.]

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Baked yeast bread makes me feel ridiculously domestic…and proud.  Best part is enjoying the spoils.  I’m serving these for a home movie night dinner with friends.  On the menu is maple-butter baked chicken and green beans and home-made applesauce, both from last summer’s garden.  Oh, and snickerdoodles for dessert…

Happy winter feasting. 

About Sharon L. Clemens

Sharon and husband Merle and their children owned and operated a specialty shop and restaurant in a restored dairy barn for thirteen years in a village in Illinois. After closing their restaurant, they converted the barn into the family home and moved their shop to the garden level. They operated a collectable shop as a home-based business for another thirteen years before retiring to the country life. Sharon has been a special feature guest on the local NBC telelvision affiliate and has spoken professionally on topics relating to herb gardening and cottage lifestyle. In addition to conducting workshops and programs, Sharon writes a weekly cottage lifestyle e-newsletter called “Cottage Chat” and a Word Press blog: Seasons of Farm Grove. She has written five novels, The Younger Girl, Door County Cottage, Timeless-A Door County Love Story, Door County Cabin and Door County Escape, love stories with traditional values set in Door County, Wisconsin.
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