I am not saying anything about the weather. I refuse. I’m just getting back to the bread that I mentioned I had been baking. It’s absolutely to die for. It should be broadcast as widely as possible because no one should have to miss out on this recipe if it can be avoided. Even if you don’t bake bread you should give it a try. You don’t even have to knead it! Some clever people (according to a recent NYT article) have been experimenting and finding that less kneading actually makes for better bread…and there was much rejoicing! It’s easy peasy lemon squeezey, as my little 7 year old neighbor would say.
Challah is one of the most delicious, buttery, soft, moist types of bread. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to say “challah” like a gangster – you know, like “hollah” – that is, if you are a megawatt dork. Anyway, my Jewish friends like to maintain that challah is further proof they are the chosen people. This cinnamon swirl version may lead me to agree. Straight out of the oven or toaster it gives you warm, fragrant, sticky, sweet, cinnamony, slices of heavenly goodness.
I decided I wanted to make cinnamon swirl challah, so I googled it. Pretty much every recipe I found was taken from the (supposedly totally awesome) Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, which I do not own. Thank goodness for the Internet. I used the version of the recipe posted on the fun blog, Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy. I cut it in half and just made two loaves, and skipped any freezing. But, I did make one loaf one day, then refrigerated the other half and did the rolling, sugaring, rising, and baking of that loaf to have another perfect, fresh loaf a couple days later. Yummy!!!!!! Yum, yum, yum!
Cinnamon Swirl Challah, adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (makes 4 loaves)
- 1 3/4 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (or neutral-tasting vegetable oil such as canola), plus more for greasing the cookie sheet
- 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
- 1-2 tablespoons raw sugar
- Mix water, honey, and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand 5-10 min. until yeast is foamy. Stir in salt, eggs, butter, and flour either by hand or in a mixer with a bread hook. If you’re doing it by hand, getting in the last bit of flour may be tricky. They advise using wet hands to incorporate it.
- Cover the dough with a cloth, or something not air tight, and let stand somewhere warm for 2 hours, until about doubled in size.
- After the first rise, you can use the dough and proceed to the shaping through baking steps right away. Or, you can refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) container and use it 1/4th at a time over the next 5 days. Or, if waiting longer than 5 days, you can freeze ¼ portions in airtight containers. To use, just defrost them in the fridge over night. Then allow them to rest and rise like usual.
- When ready to bake, mix together the amount of cinnamon and brown sugar you are using in a small bowl. Also, butter a loaf pan.
- Take off a 1 lb. chunk of the dough (about the size of a grapefruit, apparently!), dust the dough with flour, and shape it into a ball by pulling bits of the surface from the top down to meet underneath the ball, one bit from each of 4 sides, then pull on two sides to lengthen into a log shape.
- Place the dough on a floured surface, and using a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. (Try not to use too much flour, just enough to keep it from sticking like crazy.) Then, sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar and raisins evenly on the dough rectangle leaving a half inch or so border. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, starting at one of the short ends. Press the ends to seal.
- Place in the loaf pan with the edge side down. Allow to rise, covered, in a warm place for 40 minutes for fresh dough or about an hour and 20 minutes if using refrigerated or defrosted dough.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Just before baking, brush the loaf with some of the egg wash (it’s nice to have a pastry brush for this, but I don’t, so I just use my fingers!). Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown (the crust won’t get hard). When you turn it out of the pan, the bottom should sound hollow when tapped.
- Turn out of the pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Personally, I think bread is the very best when it’s fresh out of the oven. I usually only give it about 10 minutes to cool before I can’t take it any longer and dive in. It’s still fabulous the next couple of days, toasted. However, fresh baked bread is so ridiculously over the top delicious, I tend to give myself special dispensation to eat a bit (or a lot) more than I would normally eat in a sitting. It may not be a totally legitimate approach. But, it makes me happy. And sometimes that’s just what you need…even though I’m not mentioning the weather.