The taste of warm French toast with Maple syrup and my morning cafe con leche. Grilled bread with gooey cheese in a tuna melt. A warm roll used to mop up my dinner plate. Those are some of the ways I love bread, but despite enjoying it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I had never baked bread. That is, until last Friday, when I was inspired to bake bread for the first time in my life. Intrigued by a century old recipe from “97 Orchard”, I spent all afternoon baking 2 loafs of Challah and I loved it.
The first time I had some Challah, I was reminded of the Pan de Yema we have in Peru. Both are egg based breads with similar texture and taste. The Challah, however has no butter and is a braided loaf, while the Pan de Yema is baked as rolls. Here in the Bay Area, several bakeries such as Semifreddi’s, Bi-Rite, and Market Hall make some of my favorite Challahs. I could easily pick one up, but I really wanted to get my hands dirty, make a mess in the kitchen, and enjoy the bread of my labor.
This recipe is very traditional, however I used instant yeast instead of fresh yeast. Also, I used two egg yolks to brush the Challah before baking. Finally, I baked one rectangular loaf and one round loaf. The most challenging part for me was waiting a couple of hours for the dough to rise, and not knowing what the end result would be. In the end, I was very happy with the bread’s taste, texture, and consistency. If you have ever wanted to bake bread but weren’t sure where to start, this old-world recipe is well worth the effort.
- 7 1/2 cups of flour
- 4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 egg yolks mixed with 2 teaspoons of water for brushing bread before baking
- sesame seeds for sprinkling on bread before baking
- Dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine all ingredients, except the 2 egg yolks and sesame seeds, and stir to form dough.
- Knead dough for 10 minutes on a flour covered surface.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise for 1-2 hours until dough doubles in volume.
- Punch down dough, remove from bowl and knead 10 times.
- Divide dough in two halves, and divide each half into thirds. Roll each third into long pieces, about 18 inches long.
- Braid each set of 3 pieces to form loafs, one rectangular loaf and one round loaf.
- Place loafs on lightly greased baking sheets, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until each loaf is doubled in size, or about 45 minutes.
- Brush loafs with egg yolks and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Preheat oven to 375ºF and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until brown.
- Place on a cooling rack for 1 hour before serving.
Tap the bottom of the bread to test for doneness. It should make a nice hollow sound, otherwise return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes.