Rich, eggy challah is a whole lot like French brioche, so, wanting to have both around for weekend Shabbat/French toast purposes, I decided to make one big batch of dough and then bake it two different ways. The directions below describe how to make either challah or brioche, but feel free to do as I did and divide the dough in half, yielding one small challah and one small brioche loaf.
Note: If you keep kosher and want to serve the challah with a meat meal, use margarine or vegetable oil instead of butter.
Ingredients 4 cups flour, plus more for the pan and kneading pantry
1/4 cup warm water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted (let it cool until it is warm, but not hot) $1.50 for a stick
1 packet dry active yeast $1.50
2 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar pantry
6 eggs, lightly beaten, divided $1.50 for 6
1 teaspoon salt pantry
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil pantry
Total cost of ingredients: $4.50
Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then turn it off, to create a warm (but not hot) place for the dough to rise.
Lightly flour a baking sheet and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the warm water and butter. Add the yeast and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and stir gently. Let activate for 4-5 minutes until it begins to foam slightly.
Add five of the eggs, the remaining sugar, the salt, and the flour and stir to combine. You should have a very soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes, until the dough is very elastic (this can also be done in a stand-up mixer).
Roll the kneaded dough into a large ball.
Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil into a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Turn the dough over in the bowl to make sure it’s completely covered with oil.
Cover the bowl with a dish towel, then put in the warm oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until dough has increased by about two-thirds.
To make challah: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Punch the risen dough down to push the air out of it, then turn out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into three equal balls, then roll each ball into a 12-inch rope. Braid the ropes together (I like The Shiksa in the Kitchen’s illustrated how-to: tinyurl.com/braidchallah) and transfer the braided loaf to the prepared baking sheet.
Combine the remaining egg with 2 tablespoons water and whisk well with a fork to make an egg wash. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the braided dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden-brown on the outside and hollow-sounding when rapped gently on the bottom. Let cool slightly before serving.
To make brioche: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease one large (or two medium) bread pan(s).
On a floured surface, shape the dough into a smooth oval. Pack the smoothed dough into the bread pan, brush lightly with the egg wash (see challah instructions) and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool before turning onto a cooling rack or cutting board and slicing.
Recipe serves 6-8, depending on bread shape.
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