cinnamon raisin challah

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I may be biased, but that is one big beautiful loaf of bread.

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Baking with yeast is always still such a touchy business for me. Half the time, I kill the yeast with the warm water from the get go (which, yup, happened this time).

But then other times you end up with a gorgeously fluffy, perfectly fresh loaf of bread that is enough to make me keep trying.

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I love things that are shiny…I just never thought a loaf of challah would be one of them!

Cinnamon Raisin Challah

1 tsp sugar 1 cup warm (110F) water, divided
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup oil
1 tbsp honey
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
3 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour (and up to 1/4 cup extra for kneading)
2/3 cup raisins
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water

Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand 10 minutes until mixture is foamy.

Add in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, 2 teaspoons salt, and mix a bit. Then add 1/2 cup oil, 1/2 cup warm water, 2 eggs, and 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Mix until dough comes together and is smooth.

Gradually mix in remaining 1 and 3/4 cups flour (if using a mixer, do this with the dough hook running on low speed) and mix until dough comes together into a ball and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.

Mix in raisins. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

If mixing by hand, sprinkle some of the additional flour onto a smooth surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, incorporating small amounts of flour as needed to prevent the dough from getting too sticky. Dough should be smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky when finished. If mixing with a mixer, use the dough hook on a low speed to knead dough for 8-10 minutes.

Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.

When dough has risen, flour your hands and gently remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate the dough. Cut dough into even sections and gently stretch them out. Starting in the middle, braid them together (working from the center towards the ends for a more even appearance). Pinch the ends together and tuck underneath the dough. I did a 4 strand braid, see here!

Place loaf on prepared baking sheet. Brush very lightly with egg. Preheat oven to 375F. Let dough rise, covered loosely, for 35-40 minutes, until almost doubled.

Brush again with egg right before baking. (To really get a good sheen, you need to egg wash it twice. Once before the final proof and once right before you put the bread in the oven.)

Bake for 30 minutes, until deep golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

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