Monday, August 19, 2013

Vanilla Challah

As I posted a few weeks ago, our life has been pretty sweet lately.  Exhausting, yes.  But pretty sweet.  We've been enjoying our little girl tremendously.

So where have I been?  Well, I've been around.  If you're not interested in personal details, you can skip to the recipe... But here they are: This past fall was incredibly challenging, because I began a PhD program that involved a 90 minute commute and my mother, of blessed memory, was in hospice for nearly two months after a six year battle with pancreatic cancer.  And I was in first trimester of pregnancy.  And then, this winter and spring, we ate a lot of plain challah, Nutella challah, and fresh herbed challah.  Whatever tasted good, and whatever was easy in a busy, busy time.

So, needless to say, things are a lot brighter and a lot sweeter now after a tough fall.  They're no less busy... in fact, they're kind of completely insane.  This recipe was prepared with a baby in an Ergo (save the oven opening... be safe folks), so please bear with me if anything doesn't make sense!  We're not working with too much sleep here!  In honor of this new sweetness in life, here's a sweeter challah that I tried out this past Shabbat!
3/4 c water
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast (1 packet)
2 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash
1/4 c neutral oil like vegetable or canola
3 to 3 1/2 c bread flour
3 tbsp + 1/4 tsp sugar plus additional 1/2 tsp for egg wash
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla plus additional 1 tsp for egg wash

Place very warm (but not hot) water in mixing bowl. Add yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar, mixing lightly. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or so, until yeast is foamy. Add 2 eggs, 1 tbsp vanilla, 3 tbsp sugar and vegetable oil and mix with wood spoon.
Add flour and salt and beat with dough hook on standmixer or by hand.  If the dough is not holding together as a ball, add a bit more oil or water. If the dough is very sticky, add more flour (for some reason, I needed more flour this week... perhaps it was the humidity, perhaps the additional vanilla). The dough is ready when it sticks together as a ball and is not sticky to the touch when you poke your finger in (5-10 minutes of beating). Turn the ball out onto a floured work surface and punch a few times until very smooth.

Place in oiled bowl and cover in plastic wrap or a towel.

Allow to rise at least one hour, preferably more (usually about an hour and a half), until dough has doubled in size. I only do one rise as a ball, but you can do more. I'm not convinced it does much to the texture but some people swear by it.
Punch down the ball in the bowl and remove. Punch out all air bubbles. Braid in your preferred method. Allow to rise 20-30 minutes. Top with an egg wash of 1 egg plus 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.  (Credit where credit is due, I drew on this recipe for the wash proportions.)

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, rotating 180 degrees after the first 15 minutes. You can use a bread thermometer (180-200 degrees) or poke at the seams.  Foil if browning too quickly on top.
This challah is sweet and fragrant, with an almost boozy aroma to it.  It makes me want to try brandy challah or rum challah.  While I'm not sure I'd want this as my every-week-challah, I enjoyed the mildly sweet treat.
How are you making your challot a sweet treat?  Shavua Tov from our bayit to yours!!!


  1. wow lovely post thank you for sharing this my opinion is the dough could be very sticky, upload more flour for a few reason, I needed greater flour this week perhaps it became the humidity, possibly the additional vanilla. The dough is ready whilst it sticks collectively as a ball and is not sticky to the touch when you poke your finger in (five-10 minutes of beating. Last time I’m visit write my essay helps college students to enhance traditional essay writing abilities. Other than the college syllabus, writing ability is likewise needed to broaden self-development. turn the ball out onto a floured work surface and punch some times till very easy.

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