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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sweet Cinnamon Challah from Smitten Kitchen's Best Challah

This is my go-to recipe for great Challah. If you've never had Challah, you should . . . and you should have it homemade or fresh from a real bakery that specializes in Kosher foods. It's so different from what you buy in a grocery store. The flavors are divine and the aroma is heavenly. 

Tonight is not Shabbat nor is it a High Holy Day. But a friend asked me to bring some of my delicious Challah to work tomorrow, so I could not say no. However, this time I am taking my favorite recipe (and I've tried many good ones) and I'm sweetening it up. I want something reminiscent of cinnamon bread but not as sweet as a cinnamon roll. I've decided to take this recipe and add a few . . . just a few . . . ingredients to make it my own cinnamon challah. If you click on the link above it will take you to the recipe for Smitten Kitchen Best Challah (created by Smitten Kitchen). Try that recipe and practice the braiding. I cut the recipe in half for smaller loaves. Then for a twist, add the following ingredients to sweeten it up just a little bit.

4 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Smitten Kitchen Best Challah recipe will yield 2 loaves (2 large loaves), so I have cut the recipe in half (excpt for the sugar because I want a sweet loaf). I also use a bread machine on the dough setting to do all the mixing and kneading for me. Here are the results:

1 C Warm Water                                               
1/2 C Oil
3 Eggs (save 1 for the egg wash)
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 TBSP Honey
4 C Flour
1 1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 C white sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast

put to the side for an egg wash:
1 egg (beaten)
1 TBSP of water

Add ingredients to your bread machine in the order of ingredients list. Basically, liquids go in first and then the dry ingredients. Before you add the yeast, make a small well (hole) in the the middle of the flour and pour the yeast in the well. This ensures that it does not mix with the liquids too soon.

Set your bread machine to the dough setting. You can also use the bread machine on one of the bread baking settings if you just want  loaf of bread without the braiding. This could be good for sandwiches and such.

Once the bread machine has completed it's cycle of kneading and rising (usually this happens twice), remove the dough from the machine, place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise once more (I read that an extra rise is key to a better challah). 

When it has doubled in size, dump the dough onto your board. Cut the dough in half. Take each half and divide it in 3 to make 3 strands. Take each 3rd of the loaf and roll it into a strand about 12 inches long. 
Lay each strand out and pinch together at the ends. 
Now braid (just like braiding hair using a hand over hand motion instead of under).
Now pinch the strands together at the opposite end from which you started. 
Lay onto a greased cookies sheet or jelly roll pan, baste with egg wash, cover, and let it rise until it doubles in size. You can let it rise in the oven at 150 degrees if you like (or if it's the middle of winter and cold).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Brush with egg wash again before putting in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. You know it's done if you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow.

*** Variation - Sometimes I take the 2nd loaf and stack it on top of the 1st loaf before rising. Why? This gives it the look of a 6-braid challah and looks especially lovely when making the round challah for Jewish New Year. For this one, the baking takes almost twice as long.

Thank you Smitten Kitchen for this great Challah recipe!