"Oh, God above, if heaven has a taste it must be an egg with butter and salt, and after the egg is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?"
~Frank McCourt, Angela's AshesIf someone were to ask me what my signature recipe was, this would have to be it. The recipe was given to me 20 years ago by an acquaintance from church. Since then I've made it countless times. My extended family all love it and request it frequently, so it shows up at most family dinners. A friend of mine even had me make it for her son's bar mitzvah, which is saying a lot, since I'm not even Jewish. Basically, when this is in the house, it's the only thing anyone wants to eat. Plain, toasted or turned into fat French toast slabs, this slightly sweet bread is fabulous slathered with real butter and paired with a tall cold glass of milk.
Since today is the first day of Hanukkah, and challah is the traditional braided bread used for the Jewish Shabbat and celebrations, I figured this post would be fitting. A very Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and relatives.
2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted
1 3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon salt
6 or 7 cups of unbleached flour
1 egg, beaten
sesame or poppy seeds (optional)
In a large bowl, combine yeast, honey and salt. Whisk in butter, eggs, water and 3 cups flour. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on a flour surface for 10 minutes.
Place dough in an oiled bowl and turn to thoroughly coat dough with oil. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let dough rise for about an hour and a quarter or until doubled in bulk.
Punch down dough. Cut dough in half. Set one half aside. Take the other half and cut 1/3 off of it. Cut the 1/3 into 3 equal portions and make 3 ropes, 8-10 inches long. Braid. Cut the large 2/3 piece of dough into 3 equal portions and make 3 ropes, 12-14 inches long. Braid. Place the large braid on a greased cookie sheet. Place the smaller braid on top and gently press down.
Follow the same procedure with the other half of the dough. Cover with a slightly damp towel or linen cloth and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour or until double in bulk.
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when you tap it and it sounds hollow.
Yields two large loaves.
For an extra treat, spread with honey butter:
Soften 1 stick of sweet, unsalted butter. Add 3/4 cup honey and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla. Whisk together. Store in fridge, but soften a bit before serving.
This post was submitted to Yeast Spotting and selected for publication in their Holiday 2010 Edition http://www.wildyeastblog.com/yeastspotting-holiday-2010-first-batch/