There are two kind of bread that are our favorites: the first one is the Swiss Zopf (see link for the recipe) and the second is the challah bread of this post.
I Wikipedia we can read that challah is also named “Zopf” in Switzerland, this is absolutely not exact because while Challah is usually parve (I did not know what parve means and I found that parve is a Hebrew term that describes food without any meat or dairy ingredients; food can be eaten with both meat and milk dishes) unlike brioche and other enriched European breads as the Swiss Zopf, which contain butter or milk.
In any case Zopf and Challah look very similar (both braided and golden color), are soft and are lightly sweetened. For us the most important thing is that both breads are delicious with honey (we are beeper) and with homemade jams! I like the very light texture of both and I like to change: sometimes Zopf and sometimes Challah!
A few years ago I tried to prepare my first challah and I was surprised from the great result.
I changed the recipe according to our needs and for this reason we prepare 4 pieces each time I bake some; we enjoy one fresh and place the other 3 in the freezer for the next weekends. One challah is enough for us four for a weekend (Saturday and Sunday)
I need 2 trays for this, but I bake all 4 at once in two levels as we have a fun forced oven.
If I have time, I love to decorate the loaves with seed. My favorite seeds combinations are slivered almonds, moon and sesame seeds.
I you want to prepare only one loaf you can dived the recipe ingredients by 4 and for the egg you can use half egg for the second rising and the second half for the topping.
This recipe required 3 rising! I know it’s a lot, for this reason make this bread when I’m at home (Saturday and Sunday). It’s possible that I could combine all the ingredients for all of 3 rising and work them with the knead machine for about 10 minutes and a good quality of instant yeast. I never did it, but I think I should try this perhaps with the half of the ingredients and see what will happen.
- 4 cups warm water (about 40°C)
- 4 cups flour
- 4 tablespoons sugar (more if you like it sweet)
- 14 g dry yeast (2 envelopes)
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 eggs beaten
- 1 cup oil
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 7 cups flour
- ½ egg beaten
- 2 tablespoons water
- Seeds (almonds, moon, sesame, sun flower, pumpkins…) optional
- If you know that your yeast works, mix all the ingredients for the first rising together. If not proof the yeast taking aside from the ingredients form the first rising 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons flour and 1 teaspoon sugar; after 20 minutes the yeast should be activated and the mixture would look like foam. At this point add the remaining ingredients for the first rising.
- Work with the knead machine or mix by hand until smooth.
- Cover and let rise until doubled (one or two hours).
- Add the ingredients for the second rising, mix well, cover and let rise again until doubled (about one hour).
- Add the last cups of flour for the third rising and work, knead well until soft, not sticky and smooth.
- Place the dough seam side down in a big oiled big bowl, cover and let rise for about one hour.
- Punch down. Fold over itself 2-3 times. Place the dough seam side down in the bowl again and let rise until more than doubled.
- Divide the dough into 4 portions. Each portion will form one single challah.
- How to form one single challah: cut two third of the dough, divide into 3 stains (each about 60 cm long) and form a long braid. Flatten the braid lightly with your hands. Now take the last third, dived into three 60 cm long strains. Braid them and place them over the thicker braid.
- Place each challah over a single tray on parchment paper.
- Brush the challahs with the remaining egg and 2 tablespoons water. Decorate with the seeds as you wish.
- Let rise until doubled (or more if you like).
- Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C/400°F for 25 minutes, switch off the temperature and let bake for other 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, let cool down and enjoy.