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I've been working on perfecting my challah recipe over the last few years, and I think this is it. The secret ingredients are vanilla extract and soy milk (you can use regular milk if it's not an issue for you). I get raves every week with this challah, it's rich and cake-like. Great with sweet butter, not too shabby with some chopped liver, and it makes the most amazing French toast in the world. I usually bake my challahs unbraided in a fluted cake pan with a hole in the middle. It makes a pretty challah, and it's easy to cut individual slices from it as well. There is nothing like a table full of guests ooohing and aaaahing over your challah, and this will do it for you! Prep time includes rise time. If you nuke the kneaded dough in the microwave on high for 10 seconds it will cut your rise time by half!
- In the bowl of your mixer, or in large bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla.
- Mix it around a bit.
- Melt the margarine, or heat the oil a bit in the microwave.
- Add it to the stuff in the bowl and start mixing.
- Toss in the yeast, keep mixing.
- If you are using an electric mixer, go slowly.
- If you are kneading by hand, you should get a good workout.
- Heat the soy milk until it's warm.
- It should not be boiling hot!
- Slowly, with the mixer running, add the soy milk a little bit at a time, until the dough has reached the consistency of bread dough.
- It shouldn't be cakey and it shouldn't be too sticky.
- Knead the dough in the mixer for about 7-8 minutes, or by hand for about 15 minutes.
- Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk.
- Hint: if you put the bowl of dough in the microwave and nuke it on high for 10 seconds it will speed up the rising process.
- You can also let it rise overnight in the fridge, just keep it in a knotted plastic bag so it doesn't"escape".
- When the dough has risen and doubled, punch it down.
- It's a very satisfying step!
- Knead the dough by hand for another minute or so to work out the air bubbles.
- Cut into three even pieces.
- Each piece is enough for one small loaf of challah.
- Cut each piece into three or four, roll into ropes and braid.
- The best braids are made by starting in the middle and working your way to the end, then turn it around and braid the other end.
- Pinch off the ends.
- After you have shaped your loaf (you can also swirl it, or braid and swirl it, or just shape it into a natural loaf shape), place it either in a greased loaf pan, cake pan, or just on a greased cookie sheet.
- If you bake your loaf on a sheet it will spread a bit as it rises again.
- If you put your braided loaf into a loaf tin, it will just rise upwards.
- I have also made round challahs by putting them into bundt pans, or fluted round cake pans.
- Let the shaped loaves rise for another half an hour.
- You can brush a little beaten egg on the tops for a glaze, I prefer my challahs"naked".
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (about 350 F).
- Bake the loaves for about 30-40 minutes.
- Time will vary based on the shape of your loaves and the pans they are in.
- If the tops start to brown too soon, just place a sheet of silver foil over them, resting lightly on the tops.
- The challah is done when you turn out the loaf, give it a knock-knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow.
- Let it cool.
- If this recipe makes too much for you, you can either freeze the dough, or the baked challahs.
- Best eaten with sweet butter, also makes the most amazing French toast.