Chef David Scribner likes to bake small challah loaves on a large rimmed sheet "a la Parker House rolls," so that the loaves have to be pulled apart after baking, leaving their sides tender.
He also lets the dough proof for the first rise in the same bowl it was mixed in.
If this bread is to be served at a kosher meal, the alternative ingredients for milk and butter (water and pareve margarine) should be used.
Servings: 12 - 14
- 2 cups whole or low-fat milk, or water (do not use nonfat milk)
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or pareve margarine
- 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry "instant" yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 6 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, such as Diamond brand
- 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg for brushing the tops of the loaves
Combine the milk or water and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until the butter has melted and the milk has warmed through (to no more than 120 degrees); remove from the heat. Add the yeast and a pinch of the sugar, stirring to incorporate. Then add the remaining sugar, along with the honey, whisking to combine.
Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. (Alternatively, the dough can be mixed by hand using a wooden spoon.) Add half of the liquid-yeast mixture and start mixing on low speed until combined, then add the eggs and mix well. Add the remaining liquid-yeast mixture; beat to incorporate.
Increase the speed to medium and beat for several minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl to form a smooth but slightly sticky ball.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with a clean dish towel; place it in a warm spot in the kitchen and let the dough rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until it has almost doubled in bulk.
Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the work surface and knead vigorously for several minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic; add a little flour to the work surface as necessary.
Use oil to lightly grease a large rimmed baking sheet.
Use a bench scraper or large knife to separate the dough into 6 to 8 pieces of equal size. Working with one piece at a time, divide each into 3 equal sections; use your hands and the floured work surface to roll each of those pieces into thick ropes about 8 inches long. Braid the 3 pieces into a small loaf, tucking the ends under neatly. Place on the baking sheet and repeat to use all of the dough. (If there is a small wad of dough left over, place it on the sheet next to the last shaped loaf. There should be at least a 1-inch margin between the loaves.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly beat the egg in a small cup.
Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and place in a warm spot in the kitchen; let rise for at least 20 minutes or the sides of the loaves are touching. Brush the tops of the loaves with some of the egg. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds slightly hollow when tapped. Use a knife to cut the loaves apart; let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
From David Scribner, chef at Surfside restaurant in Glover Park.
Tested by David Scribner.
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