Monday, November 11, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Challah

There is this undeniable falvor and texture that you can only find in challah bread. Sure chcolate chip challah, raisin challah, plain challah are all delicious but how many times can you have a roasted chicken on a Friday night? With the fall holidays upon us, I wanted to take on a new twist to the usual challah bread we eat every Friday. This time, I had to dive into pumpkin challah (I'm a little obsessed with everything pumpkin these days), and I am here to tell you that the kids at school LOVED it (remember, we cook every Thursday with them). I did try to make this a few weeks ago with whole wheat flour and let me tell you this: IT DID NOT WORK!!!!! So please, don't do it! Anyways, I think I may use this challah recipe to make the challah for stuffing for Thanksgiving. Don't worry, I'll give it a test drive and let you know how it turns out! Oh, by the way, this recipe is a step-by-step way to make challah by hand. If you want to use a stand mixer you certainly may. Everywhere I say to do something "by hand," change it to "using a dough hook."Now, this is quite time consuming, so I suggest you do it the night before you wish to serve or the night of ONLY if you have about 3-4 hours to bake.

What you'll need (will make TWO loafs or about 30 cupcakes):
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup water
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 whole egg
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup honey (do NOT use agave, not the right sweetness)
2 tbs. canola oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbs. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups pumpkin puree (this is equal to one whole can)
7-9 cups all-purpose baking flour

2. Preheat your oven to 350*. In a large bowl, add the yeast, 1/2 cup water, and 1 tbs. of the sugar and mix by hand. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes to dissolve and become foamy (the foam should be quite thick. If this does not happen, then your yeast has probably gone bad!).
2. Once your yeast has activated (gets foamy), then add the the rest of the granulated sugar, egg, egg yolks, honey, canola oil, salt and spices. Use a whisk to throughly combine the ingredients.
3. Mix in the brown sugar and the pumpkin puree until the mixture is nice and smooth. Ok here comes the messy part: start adding in the flour, 1 cup at a time, using a whisk (or your hands) to form a dough. Keep adding until the dough is smooth and not sticky anymore. Knead for about 7-8 minutes.
4. Pour a few tbs. of canola oil into a large bowl and smear it all over. Plop your dough in the bowl, rubbing the oil all over the dough. Cover your dough with a CLEAN kitchen towel and place on your stove on TOP of your oven. ***(if your oven is not connected to your stove then preheat your oven to 200*, turn off, and let your dough rise in the oven while it is OFF)*** Let rise for 1 hour.

5. Take the dough out, punch it down a few times, then divide into cupcakes and cover to rise for another hour OR, if you're making a braided challah, put back in the bowl, cover, and let rise for another hour. 
6. If you're going to braid your challah, now is the time to do it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (learn how to braid your challah here). Divide the dough in half, and braid both halves into two challah loafs. 
7. Now, use 1 tbs. water and 1 egg yolk, whisked together, to make an egg wash. Brush the top of your cupcakes or braided challah, and let rise for 30 minutes more (this is it, I promise!). You'll know it's ready when you poke the dough and the indentation stays rather than springing back.

8. Bake in a 350* oven for 20 minutes, turn the pan (the back of the oven is the hottest so you want to make sure both ends of the pan bake evenly) and bake for another 20 minutes.
9. Let cool and chow down!!!

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