Pumpkin Challah

City Paper

I know it’s sort of trite, but my favorite thing about autumn is the omnipresence of pumpkin and pumpkin-infused treats.

I love brown-butter pumpkin mac and cheese.

I love curried pumpkin pizza. 

And, though it technically doesn’t contain pumpkin, I love pumpkin spice lattes (provided I make them myself). 

One of my favorite places to put pumpkin is in any sort of baked good. It provides great flavor, slight sweetness, and a really wonderful moistness (not to mention extra fiber and very few calories). 

Here, pumpkin works overtime, making an already-moist bread even more luscious. I like to keep the spices subtle, using only a little bit of nutmeg to bring out the pumpkin’s sweet, earthy flavor (you can add cloves, cinnamon, and allspice if you like). I brush two layers of egg wash over the dough to yield an ultra-glamorous, shiny crust and serve it without seeds on top, though pumpkin or sunflower seeds would be an adorable touch. The resulting bread is so rich-tasting that it doesn’t need butter, but I love to pass a little bowl of good extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled lightly with sea salt, for people to dip pieces of it into. 

Also, it goes without saying that this makes the absolute best French toast.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 packet active dry yeast $1.50 for 3

Large pinch plus ¼ cup sugar pantry

1/3 cup vegetable, canola, or olive oil, plus more for the bowl pantry

1 cup cooked, pureed (unsweetened) pumpkin $2 for a 15-ounce can 

3 eggs, divided (2 for the bread, 1 for the egg wash) $1.50 for 6

½ teaspoon nutmeg $1.50 for 1 ounce

1 ½ teaspoon salt pantry

5 ½-6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading pantry

Total estimated cost of ingredients: 8

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Turn it off after it reaches temperature, so that when it’s time for the dough to rise, the oven will be warm, but not hot.

Lightly flour (or line with parchment paper) a baking sheet and set it aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yeast and the pinch of sugar into ½ cup warm water and let sit to activate, 3-4 minutes (it will become foamy). 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, the oil, the pumpkin, 2 of the eggs, the nutmeg, and the salt. Continue whisking until completely incorporated. 

Gently fold the pumpkin-egg mixture into the yeast-water mixture.

Add the salt.

Add the flour gradually, stirring as you go. Eventually, you should have a soft, rich dough.

Flour a smooth, clean surface (like a countertop or large cutting board) and turn the dough out onto it. 

Knead the dough for 7-8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Form it into a large ball.

Clean the dough debris out of the bowl you mixed it in, and pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into it. 

Place the dough into the oiled bowl and roll it around to make sure it is completely covered with oil.

Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and place in the warm (but not hot) oven.

Let rise for 1 hour, or until roughly doubled in size.

Punch down the risen dough, then pull it into a smooth ball.

Place it on a flat, lightly floured surface.

Use a sharp knife to divide the dough into 3 equal-sized pieces.

Roll the dough pieces out on the floured surface into thick snakes, about 14 inches long.

Place the right-most dough snake over the center dough snake.  

Place the left-most dough snake over the new center (former rightmost) dough snake.

Continue this pattern, until the dough is almost entirely braided.  

Turn the braid around and continue the pattern with the unbraided ends.

Transfer the challah to the prepared baking sheet.

Whisk together the remaining egg and 3 tablespoons of water. 

Paint the dough with 1 coat of egg wash.

Let rise for 30 minutes, until nearly doubled in size. 

Once it has risen, paint the challah with more of the egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 350 F .

Bake the challah for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown, and hollow-sounding when rapped gently on its bottom.

Let cool slightly, then serve.

Serves 6-8. 


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