11 July 2011

Cinnamon Swirled Challah

As a kid, my favorite part of friday night services was the oneg shabbat. We'd gather downstairs, relieved that we'd made it through the sermon and oh-so ready for the weekend. A table stretched from one end of the room to the other, topped with all kinds of cakes and cookies, and the adults would stand around chit-chatting and nibbling and basking in the thought of a late and alarm-less saturday morning. Thinking back, it seems crazy that it was the challah - not the sugar cookies or chocolate cake - that I always chose. I loved it. And this year, I finally decided to make it. Bread-making can be far more work than it's worth, but this recipe requires only seven ingredients, less than an hour and a half, and no equipment besides a bowl and a baking sheet. I reduced the amount of oil and egg traditionally found in challah, and eliminated butter. The result: light and egg-y on the inside, beautifully browned on the outside and, very honestly, every bit as good as I remembered.

1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar plus a pinch (*if want sweeter bread, use 1/2 cup instead)
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 Tbs salt
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbs cinnamon

Mix yeast, pinch of sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water in small bowl
Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl
Add yeast mixture once it's become frothy (~2-3 minutes) and stir
Add egg, oil and 1/2 cup warm water, stir till combined
Gradually add remaining flour and cinnamon until dough starts to come together
With floured hands, knead until smooth (2-5 minutes)
Transfer to large, oiled bowl and let sit in a dry, warm place until doubled in size (~ 1 hour)
Preheat oven to 375°
Divide dough into 3 equal portions
With floured hands, roll each into a long, thin strand
Lay strands side by side, pinch together at once end, and braid
Transfer to baking sheet
Brush with a bit of egg mixed with warm water
Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes

Whole wheat chocolate chip: replace 1/2 flour with whole wheat flour, add 1 cup chocolate chips
Raisin: for a more traditional challah, add a cup of raisins

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