This challah inspired bread is the ultimate breakfast loaf. A soft and sweet braided bread full of orange flavor and lovely cinnamon sugar spirals inside. Slice and eat fresh out of the oven or toast them the next day and slather with ricotta, honey and nuts for a filling breakfast.
Disclaimer: This post is in partnership with Wolf Gourmet in exchange for receiving their 4-slice toaster for review. All opinions stated here are mine and are true to my personal experience while using this product.
Recently, it dawned on me that I have never baked a yeast bread with eggs in the dough. All my bread and similar yeast dough recipes have only water or milk making up the liquid content. While these are delicious nonetheless, the texture of an egg-dough challah-like bread is simply another level of awesome.ness If you have ever wondered why your home-baked bread is not pillowy soft or rich a few days after baking, a couple of eggs in the dough will solve your problem.
Challah is a Jewish egg bread with a soft, tender texture. It takes some practice to get right especially if you attempt to knead it by hand. The dough is shaggy and slightly difficult to handle, and braiding the sections may sound tedious. But with patience and perseverance, you will get it just right. And when you do, you will be rewarded with the most delicious, soft-textured bread ever. If you can manage to keep your hands away from the hot loaf for a while, you may even get around to toasting a few slices the next day. And that makes it all the more better!
I have been playing with this new toaster that the nice folks at Wolf Gourmet sent me to review. I love that I get chosen by Wolf Gourmet to sample and review their amazing line of countertop appliances. I already have their pans and high performance blender, and just before Easter, I got to take their 4-slice toaster for a spin.
Firstly, behold the extra-wide slots. There are four of them, so no more cold, hard toasts for breakfast because you had to wait till all the toasts were done. These slots can handle anything from store-bought sandwich loaves to chunky artisan bread to thick bagels and frozen waffles. And while you wait for your eggs and coffee to be done, the bread can be kept warm in the toaster itself. And my favorite feature? Slide-out crumb trays which take the guessing game out of cleaning your toaster. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of gunk and crumbs that collect at the bottom of a regular toaster over time. Well, not anymore!
While I enjoyed warm, crisp toasts each morning, I wanted to see how the toaster would handle a homemade loaf, and that too, a sweet bread loaf. I was toying around with a few flavor combos and finally decided to do an orange cinnamon braided bread.
I wouldn’t call it an authentic challah bread, but it is most definitely challah-inspired. I replaced part of the water in the recipe with freshly squeezed orange juice, added a ton of fresh orange zest and some honey. The dough was shaggy and wet, but it came together beautifully to make the softest and most fragrant dough I have ever worked with. Really, yeast and orange are best buds.
Once risen, I rolled the dough out and sprinkled a generous amount of cinnamon sugar. Rolled it up to make a giant log, split into two along the middle and braided them.
The recipe given here makes two 8″ or 8 1/2″ loaves or four 6″ free-form loaves. I made one loaf in my bread pan and two smaller ones in my mini cast-iron skillets. Have you tried baking breads in a cast-iron pan? You should, it makes the most amazing crust.
You can also make a wreath bread with this dough. See this post for an idea on how to braid and shape into a wreath. You don’t need any special equipment to bake wreath breads, a large cookie sheet will do. So, the options are really endless for this type of dough.
For now anyway, I wanted a proper loaf so that I could toast them in my new toaster. If I thought that the kneading and braiding parts were the toughest in this recipe, I was wrong. The hardest part was in fact waiting a short while between pulling the loaves out of the oven and cutting them. The aroma of the orange and cinnamon together can prove to be too much of a temptation!
My dough was a light orange from the orange juice, but I wasn’t entirely sure the bread too would turn out that way. But it did! There is no mistaking that there is orange in this bread. The cinnamon sugar adds a lovely touch without being overpowering. I think orange and cinnamon sugar has to be my new favorite combo.
Since this is a sweet bread, it toasts up pretty fast as well.
Now, I am not one to leave my toasts plain. I quickly whipped some ricotta cheese with honey and slathered the toasts with this creamy mixture. A sprinkling of crunchy pistachios and a few rose petals for garnish, and we were well on our way to the toast of our dreams.
The honey ricotta cheese is light and airy and complements this delicious bread very well. You can leave out the ricotta-honey spread and eat the bread toasts plain. But then again, would you want to, after seeing all this deliciousness?
This recipe does need a bit of foresight because there are two resting times for the dough. And since the dough is super soft, it will take more time for it to double up. But the couple of eggs in the dough helps a bit with the leavening, so you should be fine. If you do not have oranges, simply use water instead of orange juice in the recipe, no other substitutions are needed.
- Active dry yeast - 1 tbsp
- Water - ½ cup, around 110 deg.F
- Orange juice - ½ cup, freshly squeezed
- Eggs - 2, large
- Vegetable oil - 6 tbsp
- Honey - 2 tbsp
- Orange zest - 2 tsp, heaped
- All-purpose flour - 4¼ - 4½ cups plus a little extra, divided
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Sugar - ¼ cup
- Butter - 2 tbsp, melted
- Sugar - ½ cup
- Cinnamon powder - 2 tbsp
- Chocolate shavings - 1 oz, optional
- Egg yolk - 1
- Water - 2 tsp
- Ricotta cheese - 1 cup
- Honey - 2 tbsp
- Pistachios - 8-10, chopped, for garnish
- Dried rose petals - a few, for garnish
- Stir in yeast and 1 tsp of sugar in the warm water. Allow yeast to prove, around 10 minutes. The solution must be frothy and bulked up before using.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the orange juice, eggs, oil, honey and zest till smooth.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 3½ cups of flour, salt and sugar.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the yeast solution and the other wet ingredients. Mix together with a wooden spoon (or electric beater) to form a wet dough. When the dough just comes together, tip it out onto a well-floured surface.
- Dough will be wet and sticky. Start kneading by incorporating the rest of the dough, a little at a time. Knead till dough is supple but still a bit sticky. Do not add too much flour to make the dough stiff, else your bread will come out tough.
- Oil the dough ball lightly and place it in a clean bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and rest the dough in a warm place till doubled, 1-2 hours depending on the weather.
- While dough is resting, prepare the cinnamon sugar by mixing the sugar and cinnamon powder in a small bowl. Shave some chocolate to top the loaves with. Set aside.
- Prepare your working area by lightly flouring it or laying down a large piece of parchment paper.
- Once dough is doubled, gently punch it down. Tip it onto the work surface and gently roll it into a rectangle, roughly 20" x 16".
- Liberally brush with melted butter. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar, leaving a ½" border at all the edges. Reserve 2 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar for later.
- Roll the dough along the long side to form a log. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Cut the dough in half down the length of the dough, and start braiding the two pieces, taking care to keep the cut sides facing upwards as you braid. This gives the finished product a cool braided effect.
- Divide braided dough into two. Pinch the ends closed to seal. Place each formed half in two well-greased loaf pans (8½" x 4½").
- Cover with cling wrap and allow to rest till dough almost reaches the top of the pan or for another hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375 deg.F.
- Whisk together egg yolk with water for the egg wash. Brush tops of loaves with this egg wash. Sprinkle with reserved cinnamon sugar and some shaved chocolate, if desired.
- Bake for 40 minutes or till done (loaves should sound hollow when tapped or till internal temperature registers 190-200 deg.F). Check loaves 10-15 minutes prior to this and tent loosely with foil if the tops are browning rapidly.
- Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Slice and serve warm or cool loaves completely on a wire rack before storing.
- Wrap bread tightly in cling wrap and store on the countertop for 1-2 days, 4-5 days in the refrigerator or freeze immediately for future use.
- Ricotta-Honey Toasts: Thickly slice the bread. Toast on medium-light setting.
- Whisk honey into the ricotta cheese. Top toasts with some of this spread. Sprinkle pistachios and dried rose petals on top before serving.
2. For smaller round loaves, cut the braided dough into 4 parts. Form each part into a rough circle on a 6" cast-iron skillet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till done.
Do try this delicious and stunning orange-cinnamon braided loaf and do try the ricotta honey toasts. Wolf Gourmet 4-slice toaster can be bought at this retailer.
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Do you like to bake bread? Have you tried challah? Or other braided loaves? Do share.
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I am sharing this over at Fiesta Friday.