We had a guest this weekend and it was the perfect item for breakfast with a cup of tea or coffee, or as an afternoon snack after a mini photo walk in the countryside.
I love making this dough so much that I predict the next cold months might see a few more challah bread loaves appear in the kitchen. This plus a hot cup of green tea and a warm blanket are the perfect coziness association for Autumn and Winter.
Ingredients (make one large loaf, approximately 20 slices)
For the challah bread dough
250ml lukewarm water
7g active dry yeast
600g plain flour (plus extra to add if needed and for dusting)
50g caster sugar (plus an extra pinch for the yeast mix)
2 teaspoons salt
2 free range eggs
1 free range egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
60ml vegetable oil (plus extra for oiling the bowl)
For the filling
6 tablespoons blackberry jam
150g cashew butter (I used a crunchy one but smooth will work too)
Optional: pearl sugar or sesame seeds for sprinkling.
1. Put the lukewarm water in a jug. Mix in the yeast and a pinch of sugar and let it stand for a few minutes until a thin frothy layer forms at the surface (if it doesn't, your yeast might have expired or the water might be too hot or too cold).
2. Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large baking bowl. Make a well in the centre, add in the eggs, egg yolk and vegetable oil and whisk with a bit of the flour. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is too thick to stir.
3. Transfer the dough on a floured large flat surface. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes, adding more flour one teaspoon at a time if the dough is too sticky. You should end up with a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside somewhere warm until it has doubled in size (about 1 and a half to 2 hours).
4. Now that the dough has finished rising (it should have doubled), place it on a large flat surface dusted lightly with flour and cut it in three. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope (about 40cm).
5. Flatten each rope with a rolling pin so it is about 20 to 25cm wide. Divide the cashew butter between the three pieces of dough and spread it (leaving some space around so it does not go everywhere when rolling). Spread two tablespoons of blackberry jam on top of the cashew butter on each piece. Roll each piece of dough delicately back into a long rope, pinch the dough together at the top and ends and make sure no filling peeks out.
6. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof baking paper. Transfer the three ropes of filled dough onto the tray side by side and braid them (see picture above of braided dough). Sprinkle a little bit of flour over the dough, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
7. After 45 minutes in the rising time, preheat the oven to 180ºC. Prepare an egg wash by whisking the egg white and a teaspoon of cold water in a small bowl.
8. When the challah has risen, brush it all over with the egg wash. Sprinkle some pearl sugar or sesame seeds on the top (optional). Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes (I use a conventional electric oven so time may vary a bit depending on your oven), until it is golden brown and cooked through (check with a skewer). Transfer the challah bread loaf onto a wire rack and let it cool down completely before serving.