you guys, it's snowing! i realize this is no big deal to those of you who've been having heaps of snow for weeks, but for us, it's the first of the season! it's the little, wet flakes, swirling around and sticking to the blades of grass. although it probably won't amount to anything, it does make for a pretty scene.
today i'm making challah. we decided tomorrow would be a french toast morning, and instead of picking up a loaf at the grocery, i decided to whip one up this morning. although the rising took a good bit of time, the method was relatively easy and the loaf turned out relatively good looking. i will report back after the weekend to let you know how it tasted as french toast. (that is, if i make it without breaking off a piece this afternoon...)
best challah (egg bread)
from smitten kitchen
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs*
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1. in a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
2. whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. gradually add flour. when dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
3. turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. to make 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. with your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. pinch the tops of the strands together. move the outside right strand over 2 strands. then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. take the outside left strand and move it over 2. move second strand from the right over to the far left. start over with the outside right strand. continue this until all strands are braided. for a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. for a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. make second loaf the same way. place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least two inches in between.
5. beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. either freeze breads or let rise another hour.
6. if baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. if freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
7. bake in middle of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. cool loaves on a rack.
*i halved the recipe for one loaf, using two eggs in the dough, and most of another for brushing over the loaf.
the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in hot water, per loaf, and poppy/sesame seeds for sprinkling. for the purposes of french toast, i omitted those extras.