Recipe: Challah with Orange and Cranberries

I got a Magimix for my birthday and I am VERY VERY VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS. I’ve run two food processors into the ground, and when my third started showing signs that the end was nigh, I decided that the time had come to upgrade. I completely fell in love with the descriptions of all the things the Magimix could do (it slices! it dices! it even kneads dough!) (no, really), and so I asked anyone who was in the mood for getting me a birthday present to contribute to the cause and now I have this beautiful, beautiful machine gracing my kitchen.

And how cute is the teeny tiny loaf of bread I made in it this evening?

Also, it’s red, so it goes faster.

Actually, it really does go faster, though, because I’ve been using it to knead bread and it takes literally 30 seconds to a minute to completely knead it. This blows my mind. I spend longer than that assembling the thing and cleaning it. Clearly the answer is to make multiple batches of bread in one go, but I digress…

Quite seriously, though, I am very excited about the kneading tool, because I love making bread, but my wrists are just never going to be good enough for me to knead dough by hand on a regular basis. This way, I have all the fun of watching and waiting for the dough to rise, and of shaping the bread into fancy forms, and, let us be truthful here, of ignoring the recipe and adding whatever extras I see fit, but the machine does the bits I can’t do, and it’s fantastic.

Anyway. Because I am a very sensible individual, the very first thing I decided to make in my Magimix was not just bread, but challah. I mean, there was a challah recipe right there in the Magimix cookbook. (Did I actually follow said recipe? No, dear reader, I did not. But did you honestly expect that I would?)

It was a very, very cold day when I made this, which is not really optimal for breadmaking, and also I foolishly used cold water instead of lukewarm water to start with, so my challah took a LUDICROUSLY long time to rise, all three times. But it turned out that this fit in beautifully with my work schedule for the day. I made the dough in the morning, and sat at my kitchen table smelling yeast and orange zest as I diligently organised meetings, worked on grant reports and tried to come up with an equitable rostering system for the TC rooms (don’t ask). I punched down the dough at morning tea and at lunchtime, shaped it at afternoon tea and left it to prove, and right at the end of the day I brushed it with egg wash and put it in the oven. It emerged, golden and gorgeous, just in time for a warm after-work snack. Perfect.

I think I’ll be making challah and fruit buns/scrolls quite a bit in the near future. Really, this improved my work day immeasurably…

Your shopping list

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150 ml cool water (lukewarm if you want a faster rise)
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (you may need a little less if your yeast is fresher than mine)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 eggs, beaten, plus another egg for the egg wash
  • 375 g plain flour
  • half a cup of dried cranberries

Now what will you do with it?

If you are using a food processor or stand mixer with a dough hook, start by adding the sugar, salt, water and yest, and pulsing briefly to help dissolve everything. If you are doing this by hand, stir these ingredients together well. Either way, leave to sit for five minutes. If your yeast is more active than mine, it might get bubbly.

Add in the eggs and orange zest, and either pulse a few times or stir again.

Add in the flour and cranberries, and knead until the dough comes together in a nice, sticky, elastic mass. This takes 30 seconds in a Magimix, and probably 10 minutes by hand – and if you are doing this by hand, you will want to oil or flour your hands, because the dough is very sticky. Try not to add too much flour to the dough, though – sticky dough means moist, soft bread.

Put a little oil into a bowl, and roll the dough in it until it is oiled on all sides. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise until doubled. This will take at least an hour, maybe two or even longer in this weather. (Doughs enriched with eggs tend to take longer to rise at the best of times.)

Punch down, and leave to rise until doubled a second time.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured surface. Divide it into four parts – I suggest using a sharp knife, and going by eye, but if you are really finicky about these things you can weigh the parts.

Roll each piece of dough into a long sausage shape, 30 – 40cm long. The dough is very elastic and will keep snapping back, but persist. Letting it rest for a few minutes can help.

Now make a braid! To do a braid with four strands, you take the sausage on the left, pull it over the second and third sausage, and back under the third one, so that it is now second from the left. Now take the sausage on the right, pull it over the third and second, and back under the third, so that it is now second from the right. It’s a good idea to stretch the dough a little as you make each of these crosses and twists, so you get a nice, tight braid.

When you get to the end… you know, I have no idea what I did, but I think I somehow twisted it all around and tucked it into itself. But a straight braid is more traditional, I believe!

Anyway, you now want to put it onto a tray lined with baking paper, cover it and leave it to rise until doubled again. Don’t use the teatowel this time, or you will end up with half of your beautiful braid stuck to the cotton. Honestly, I think next time I’ll put it under a dome of some kind.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. When the oven is hot and the challah is risen, beat the last egg, and brush it all over the challah.

Bake for around 35 minutes, until deep golden brown. It should sound a bit hollow when you tap it underneath.

Serve plain or with butter. This is nice for a couple of days, after which the leftovers are great for French toast.

Honestly, I think it could have risen a little more. But it didn’t taste too heavy, which is the main thing.

Variations

This recipe really can’t do without the eggs or the gluten, but it is nut-free, dairy-free and vegetarian.

Flavourwise, you could make it plain, or maybe top it with poppy seeds. Actually, a lemon zest and poppy seed challah. I reckon dried cherries and chocolate chips could be a goer, too. Or maybe some cinnamon sugar and dried apples… frankly, the options are limitless! I do think one thing that makes this so nice is that it isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, so maybe bear that in mind in your planning.

Did I mention that this smells amazing the whole time it’s rising? It really does, you know.

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