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Challa bread

What’s the problem with baking bread at home?

The fact that you cannot find fresh yeast at the store? No

It’s difficult to make? No

You don’t have flour in the pantry? No

No time? Yes!

Baking bread is easy. Really. Especially if you have a mixer to do all the kneading, although I find that kneading dough by hand is good them since most of the time what they do is type type type.

But bread making at home requires time and patience for the bread to rise 3 times!

I usually bake bread only when I can stay at home or run short errands and return home soon to babysit the dough.

After baking this recipe dozens of time it was about time to try a different strategy. I invited guests for lunch and didn’t want to get up at dawn to bake bread! The plan:

1. make the first step/first rising on Friday night

2. send the dough to the fridge to “rest”/rise the second time overnight

3. Saturday morning, take dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature and continue to rise. I have a few tricks for that. I’ll tell you in a sec. (See notes after the recipe)

4. form the loaves and let rise again for the 3rd time

5. bake

6. have warm fresh bread for lunch to impress my guests

Well, #6 depends on what time you get up on a Saturday morning when it’s still cold and dark outside, pre daylight saving time. Me? I have 2 young kids – they are early birds – so I rise and shine around 7 am. But if you can afford to sleep late – lucky you! – then have the bread for dinner and sleep late. Lucky you! Oh, I’ve said that already.

The recipe is from this book, which I have mentioned to you many many times before. I love this book.

This recipe was submitted to Wild Yeast blog where fabulous bread are being featured. Check it out.


Wolfgang Puck’s Challa bread

Adapted from “Wolfgang Puck Makes it Easy” cookbook
Makes 2 loaves 

For the dough:
2 packets active dry yeast (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
2 cups warm milk (80-90 F, 26-32 C degrees), divided*
1/3 cup sugar
6 cups bread or all-purpose flour (or a mix of the two), plus more for kneading
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional

1. Combine the yeast and 1 cup of milk in a bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand) and stir to dissolve. Add the sugar and 2 cups of flour and mix together using the paddle attachment. When the mixture is smooth, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot for 45-60 minutes, until mixture is bubbly.

2. On low speed, add the remaining warm milk to the sponge and beat in the melted butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat to incorporate. Add the remaining 4 cups of flour and salt and mix. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. If it’s sticky, add more flour. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 1 minute. Shape into a ball.

3. Using the same bowl, oil it a little and roll the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or leave to rise in a warm spot). If you chose to refrigerate the dough, bring it to room temperature the next day (see note) and let rise until it doubles in size, 1 1/2- 2 hours.

4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut it in half. Cut each half into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece back and forth to form an even strand 18 inches (40 cm) long. Pinch the ends together and braid the strands. Pinch the other ends together and tuck underneath. Repeat with the second half of the dough to make a second loaf.

5. Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Transfer the loaves to the baking sheet(depending on their size/length, do it horizontality or vertically) leaving space between them, or use two baking sheets. Beat the egg with water to make an egg wash. Brush it on the loaves, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel and leave them to rise until nearly double in bulk, about 1 hour.* If you are using 2 baking sheets and have only one oven, place one in the fridge and remove it after 1 hour.

6. 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes or until deep browned. Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool.

* I warm the milk about 30-40 seconds in the microwave per cup
* when the weather is cold, to help the dough rise, I put a glass of water in the microwave and heat it for 1 minute. I leave it inside the microwave and put the bowl with the dough inside as well. This makes a nice warm and humid environment for the dough to rise (just be careful not to turn the micro on!)
* another trick I do to help the dough rise when the room is cold is to microwave a kitchen towel for 20-30 seconds and place it under/on top of the loaves.
* to see my food photography post about this bread click here.

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Categories : Breads, Cooking tips, Recipes

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