The following recipe and photography was provided by recipe developer and food photographer, Ashley Durand of Plate & Pen.
When the holiday season begins, you’ll often find me perusing the internet for seasonal cooking inspiration, and there’s one recipe that keeps catching my eye: challah.
Challah is a special bread for those of the Jewish faith. Braided and slightly sweet, it is most commonly enjoyed on the eve of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, or during celebrations such as Hanukkah. While I was not raised under the Jewish faith, I live in an area with a large Jewish population and felt inspired to try my hand at making homemade challah with the flavors of winter.
What I learned in the process of making challah is that it’s all about the yeast, because that’s what makes the bread rise. I used active dry yeast, which you can find at your local Heinen’s. The way this specific bread rises all depends on whether the yeast proofing process is successful, so make sure the water that you use is not too hot or cold. Warm-to-almost-hot is perfect!
Once the dough proofs, it’s time to practice your braiding skills! The way in which you braid will determine how thick or thin the knot/wreath will be when it’s baked. I like when bread looks like more of a knot, so the three strands of my braid were about 2-inches wide. If you want this bread to look more like a wreath with a hole in the center, make the strands more narrow (about 1-inch wide).
The best thing about this bread, besides is beautiful appearance, is its flavor. With hints of orange, honey and vanilla, it’s makes the perfect subtly sweet treat.
No matter what holidays you celebrate this winter, I encourage you to expand your horizons in the kitchen and share this challah bread at your seasonal gatherings!
- Cook time:
- Prep time:
- Total time:
- 2 3.25 oz. packets active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- ¼ cup + 1 tsp. raw cane sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tsp. Heinen's ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. Heinen's ground cardamom
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. Heinen's honey
- ⅓ cup Heinen's coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- Zest of 1 orange
- ¼ cup Heinen's fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 1/4 cup Heinen's powdered sugar, for dusting
- 1 cup Heinen's dark chocolate chips + 4 Tbsp. Heinen's heavy cream, for optional for drizzle
- Add the yeast, 1 tsp. of sugar and warm water to a small bowl and give a little stir. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the yeast is bubbly and foamy.
- While the yeast is proofing, mix the flour, the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a large bowl.
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, vanilla extract, eggs, orange zest and orange juice.
- Once the yeast has proofed, add it to the flour mixture along with the wet ingredients.
- Using a large wooden spoon or a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix to combine on low speed for 4 minutes until the dough becomes too thick to stir.
- Place the dough on a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Add more flour, as needed.
- Transfer the ball of dough to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about two hours, or until it doubles in size.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Flip the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface. Cut the dough into three equal pieces.
- Roll each piece of dough into a log about 1-inch thick if you like a wreath shape with a hole at center. If you want to achieve the knotted braid with no hole, make the dough strands 2-inches thick.
- Braid the three strands together, starting with an open end braid on one side.
- Shape the braid into a wreath or knot on the parchment-lined baking sheet by connecting both ends and braiding the strands into one another.
- Brush the dough with the beaten egg yolk.
- Bake the braided dough in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
- Remove and let cool.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and top with your desired garnishes.
- When serving, you can choose to make a quick double boiled chocolate drizzle with the chips and cream in a serving bowl.