Something delicious that can be made ahead and enjoyed before tackling a big list of food preparation tasks? I am all for it.
If I never skip breakfast all year long, why would I make an exception of that specific day? I guess the answer to this is to make sure there is something ready to have for breakfast in order to avoid skipping it. Something made ahead of time is even better.
I made those cranberry and white chocolate mini muffins a few years ago and they are pretty delicious and handy to have on Christmas morning but lately, I am more inclined to prepare a large loaf of challah bread as it will cover a few breakfasts over the holidays (depending on how many of you will sit at the breakfast table).
I have shared a few challah bread recipes on this blog over the years but I have to admit this one is my favourite so far. I am pretty fond of hazelnut praline and I enjoyed making my own (see recipe below inclined steps for hazelnut praline paste) to spread on the dough before braiding it into this delicious sweet bread.
It will keep for up to a week and while fluffy at the start, it is best enjoyed toasted after a couple of days.
Do you make something special for Christmas morning or do you skip breakfast that day?
What are your favourite Christmas breakfast items?
Ingredients (make 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)
Sesame seeds (for sprinkling)
For the praline paste
150g blanched hazelnuts
100g caster sugar
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 beeswrap or clingfilm and set aside somewhere warm until it has doubled in size (about 1 and a half to 2 hours).
4. Make the hazelnut praline paste during that time.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160ºC fan). Place the blanched hazelnuts on a baking tray on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 10 minutes until they are light brown. After cooking, let them cool down completely (at this stage, if the cooled hazelnuts had skins on, transfer them into a clean kitchen towel and rub them to remove the skin).
5. The next step requires careful attention as it is a delicate process*. Put the sugar (and nothing else) in a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Do not stir it while it slowly melts into a caramel, swirl the saucepan lightly if needs be to make sure all the sugar is evenly caramelising. When it reaches a light blond colour, add in the cold roasted hazelnuts, stir until the caramel is amber (this process happens quite fast). Spread the caramelised hazelnuts quickly onto a piece of greaseproof paper or a silicon mat and let it cool down completely.
6. After the caramelised hazelnuts have cooled down, break them up into chunks. Put them in a food processor and mix until you get a fine praline powder. Continue processing on high speed until the oils from the nuts are released and the mixture has turned into a paste. Transfer the hazelnut praline paste into a small bowl.
7. 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).
8. Flatten each rope with a rolling pin so it is about 20 to 25cm wide. Divide the hazelnut praline paste between the three pieces of dough and spread it (leaving some space around so it does not go everywhere when rolling). 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.
9. 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.
10. After 45 minutes in the rising time, preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan). Prepare an egg wash by whisking the egg white and a teaspoon of cold water in a small bowl.
11. When the challah has risen, dust the flour off and brush the loaf all over with the egg wash. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top and place it on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes 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.
Notes: * I am always careful while making caramel. Make sure not to be distracted.