Bread Days Are Here Again
I’m kicking myself for not having done this post during the holidays, missing out on the opportunity to name it ‘Home for the Challah-days’ or something along those lines. If my family knew how good this Challah french toast was, they’d kick me too. Sorry guys!
This traditional Jewish bread, has a sweet buttery taste despite its lack of dairy; its dense texture making it hands down, the best bread for french toast.
Baking it at home versus in my schools commercial kitchen with massive mixers, proofers and ovens, felt alien. However, after a few batches I’ve fine tuned the process and come up with a fairly effective proofing method which is explained in the recipe below.
7g active dry yeast (20g fresh yeast)
500g bread flour
100g egg yolk
62g vegetable oil
1 egg (for egg wash)
Pour luke warm water and yeast into mixing bowl. If using active dry yeast, let it stand for up to 10 minutes before adding all of the other ingredients. Attach the hook and mix on low for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides if necessary. Speed up the mixer to medium for 5 minutes. Remove from bowl and round into a smooth ball before covering with a lightly damp tea towel. Let rest for 10 minutes.
The total amount of dough should be just over 900g and you’ll need to scale the dough into smaller equal portions. I scaled 3 pieces at 200 grams each and 3 at 107 grams each, for two loaves of bread. If you don’t have a scale just eye ball it as best you can. Round up each piece of dough and cover with a damp towel for another 10 minutes.
* Move the oven racks to the bottom and middle position. Heat your oven to 175 degrees.
Roll out each piece of dough just slightly (4”), making fat logs and cover again for 10 minutes.
* Turn off the oven once it hits 175 degrees.
Roll out the three 200 gram logs evenly to about 9 or 10 inches long. You don’t want them too skinny, ideally about 3/4” thick. Squeeze one end of the three long dough logs together and make a braid with the pieces. Do your best to make the ends look symmetrical and don’t pull as you braid as it will disfigure the shape of your loaf. Squeeze the bottom three strands together when you’re finished braiding. Repeat with the smaller remaining pieces but adjust the size of your long strands to about 7 inches in length.
Move the braided loaves to a parchment lined baking tray. Place them diagonally with a few inches separating them as they will expand during proofing and baking. Brush both loaves with one coat of egg wash. Place four coffee mugs with similar height on each corner of the pan. Cover the pan with a damp tea towel, tucking the towel beneath each coffee mug so the towel cannot touch the dough.
Test the residual heat in your turned off oven. You don’t want to cook the bread but you want a nice light warmth to help the bread proof.
If the oven is giving off a mild warmth, put an empty muffin tin on the middle rack and then place the baking tray with the tented challah on top of the muffin tin. This is to avoid cooking the bottom of the challah while it’s proofing as the rack will have retained a lot of heat. Proof for 40 minutes before removing from the oven.
Keep the braided loaves under their tent and put on the counter while you heat the oven up to 400°. Remove the coffee mugs and tea towel and egg wash both loaves a second time before putting in the oven to bake. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the crust is a dark golden brown.
Makes 2 loaves
Challah French Toast
3/4 cup half and half cream
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbls orange blossom water
zest of one orange
Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a wide mouth dish so that you can dip/soak the bread.
Slice the challah into thick pieces. Soak each piece in the egg mixture for 2 minutes a side.
Heat up a large non-stick pan and melt a knob of butter. Fry each piece of egg soaked challah until both sides are a golden brown.
Serve with syrup, icing sugar and fruit.
Challah recipe adapted from Wayne Gisslen
Challah French Toast recipe and photos by Maggie Murphy