Food You Knead – Spiced Challah Bread

Last year for Christmas, our family rented a cabin for a winter wonderland holiday. There were cross-country ski trails, snowshoe trails, tobogganing hills, an outdoor firepit and a hot tub to soak in after all the fun. It was a perfect getaway. My parents gift to all of us was the rental for the week and my sister and I supplied all the food and drinks. I decided I wanted to make an extra special breakfast on Christmas morning, so I looked into the plethora of recipes online. In my searching I came across Challah bread. I decided to give it a go for a nice treat for out at the cabin. What happened was the best bread for Christmas morning French toast. Here is my version of challah bread.

INGREDIENTS:

Bread Ingredients:
~ 2-1/4 instant yeast
~ 3-3/4 cups flour
~ 3/4 cups warm water
~ 2 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
~ 1/2 cup vegetable oil
~ 1-1/2 tsp salt
~ 1/4 cup sugar
~ 1 tsp cardamom

Bread Filling Ingredients:
~ 1/4 cup (heaping) grated semi-sweet chocolate
~ 1/4 cup (heaping) currants or raisins
~ 1/4 cup sugar
~ 1 tbsp cinnamon
~ 1 tbsp nutmeg or mace
~ 1 tsp ground anise

Egg Wash Ingredients:
~ 1 egg
~ 1 tbsp water
~ 1-2 tsp unsweetened cocoa (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together the yeast, 3/4 cup of the flour and warm water until smooth. Let it sit uncovered for 10-20 minutes, or until it begins to ferment and puff slightly.
  2. Whisk 2 eggs, oil, salt, cardamom and sugar into the puffed yeast slurry until the eggs are well incorporated and the salt & sugar have dissolved.
  3. With the bread hook attachment on your mixer, or using your hands, stir in the remaining 3 cups of flour all at once. Knead for no more than 10 minutes. Once the dough springs back slightly when indented with a finger, it is is ready to rise.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let dough ferment in a warm spot until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours. Prepare your baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  5. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 6 even size pieces. Take each piece, and roll it into a long cylinder. Using a rolling pin, flatten each roll into an oblong, flat sheet of dough about 14 x 5 inches.
  6. Divide filling evenly in the middle of each strip of dough. Moisten one side with your finger dipped into some warm water. Roll the dough around the filling, pinching it shut.
  7. Pinch the ends of each cylinder together at one end to start your braid. Braid the dough until you reach the other end. For a quick braid tutorial I recommend this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RP6j7esQyjk
  8. Place braid on the parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30-45 mins. Preheat your oven to 350F
  9. Once doubled in size, brush with the egg wash and bake at 350F for 30-35 mins until golden brown. Halfway through baking, brush egg wash on the bread again.
  10. Let cool completely before slicing.

It takes a little time, but is worth it for a unique Christmas morning French toast!

Step 5 – rolling out the 6 braid strands.
Step 6 – adding the filling to each strand
Step 6 – pinch the dough around the filling to create final strands. Step 7 – pinch the top of the strands together to begin the braid.
Step 7 – Braided bread ready for second rise.
Step 8 & 9 – bread has doubled in size and has had an egg wash.
The final product.
Turned into delicious French toast.

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