The thing is I really love challah bread. It makes for a wonderful breakfast, toasted and spread with butter and jam. I might also grab a slice for an afternoon snack if there is a fresh loaf in the kitchen.
A loaf (or in my case a crown) produces quite a few slices so I feel it is an ideal thing for sharing with coffee and tea, or as part of brunch. If you don't feel like making it with a filling, follow the steps in the recipe below and just omit the frangipane and cherry jam.
My love for challah bread started on the other side of the world and I am delighted that I get to return there soon enough for a visit. Hopefully, I will even have time to go and grab a loaf in the bakery where I first tried it!
Ingredients (makes one crown loaf)
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 frangipane
50g ground almond
30g caster sugar
1 small free range egg
25g softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons dark cherry jam
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. While the dough is rising, prepare the frangipane mixture by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
5. When the dough has finished rising (it should have doubled), place it on a large flat surface dusted lightly with flour and cut it in half. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope (about 40cm).
6. Flatten each rope with a rolling pin so it is about 20 to 25cm wide. Divide the frangipane mixture between the two pieces of dough and spread it (leaving some space around so it does not go everywhere when rolling). Spread three tablespoons of dark cherry jam on top of the frangipane. 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.
7. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof baking paper. Transfer the two ropes of filled dough onto the tray (safely turning them so that the closed pinched side is down). Pinch them together at one end and twist the ropes together delicately shaping the challah dough into a crown. and pinching the ends together to close it. Sprinkle a little bit of flour over the crown, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
8. 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.
9. 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 - it may require another 5 minutes, if you are worried about the top getting too brown, place a piece of aluminum foil over it), 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.