For Bread Baking Day #46, Noor of Ya Salam Cooking encouraged us to Bake a bread from a place you would love to visit. There are lots of places I would love to visit so I had a hard time deciding which country and what bread to make. I thought about making Irish Scones from Ireland, or a flatbread from the Mediterranean, but I finally settled on Italy and Italian Bread. I love Italian Bread and Italy is definitely one of the places I would love to visit.
This Italian Challah is another bread that’s really easy to make and doesn’t take much time. I like that! This is the BOM (Bread of the Month) for January for the Artisan Bread Bakers FB Group. This is a family recipe that was handed down to Anthony, one of the members of the FB group so it sounded like a neat bread to try and fit the bill perfectly for BBD#46.
Instead of shaping this challah in the traditional freeform 3-strand braid, I opted to place it in a loaf pan as the recipe suggested. I’m so glad I did. I loved the way it turned out. I love braided breads and it’s fun to try different methods.
This bread is made with olive oil instead of butter and only includes a little bit of sugar so it makes great sandwich bread. Another sandwich bread; that makes three this month: Sprouted Spelt Bread, Cuban Bread and this Italian Challah.
Nana’s Egg Bread or Italian Challah
- 500g all-purpose, unbleached flour
- 215g warm water
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk*
- 15g white sugar (I used raw sugar)
- 15g extra virgin olive oil (added a little extra during the kneading because the dough was too dry)
- 11g kosher salt
- 10g active dry yeast (I used instant)
- 1 large egg (for egg wash) (*I used the leftover egg white for this part)
- 9"x5" bread pan (optional)
- Digital scale
- Cooking spray
- Plastic wrap
1) Mixing the Dough
Scale out your flour, salt, yeast, olive oil, and sugar into the bowl.
Crack the eggs (separating the one) and add to bowl. Scale out your water (separately in case you mess up), and then add it to the bowl.
2) Kneading the Dough
Use the dough hook on your mixer and mix the dough on the lowest setting for 2-3 minutes until everything pulls together. Depending on your mixer, put it up to the typical speed that you're comfortable mixing bread doughs at. Whatever that is, allows the dough hook to knead it for 15 minutes. (If it strains at all, turn it down a notch.)
3) Bulk Fermentation
When your finished kneading, place the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap (I sprayed a bit of vegetable cooking spray on it just in case it proofs up and touches the plastic wrap). Allow it to proof until doubled.
Once doubled (dimple test it), remove the dough from the bowl for shaping.
4) Shaping the Challah
You can shape this as a regular pan loaf by rolling it out (whether with a rolling pin or just by hand) to about 1/2 inch in thickness. The width should be no wider than the bread pan you intend to use. Then, roll up the dough tightly and make sure it seals well at the end.
I decided to braid the loaf, then bake the braided loaf in a loaf pan. I began the process by dividing the dough evenly into 3 balls.
Then I rolled each ball into a long rope and placed them side-by-side on the counter.
I overlapped the ropes in the middle of the loaf and braided one end and then switch to the other end to finish the braiding.
For detailed instructions, including a photo tutorial, on braiding breads, refer Making Braided Bread: Challah.
This braid was the perfect size to fit in a 9”x5”-inch loaf pan. However, if your braid ends up being a bit too long, just tuck the ends of it under to fit it in the pan.
5) Proofing the Loaf
Cover the braid with plastic wrap and allow it to double in size (should crest nicely above the rim of the pan). This will take 45 minutes to an hour. If you decided to make a free-form braid, just cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to double on the sheet pan.
6) Preparing the Loaf for Baking
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and place an empty steam pan on the bottom rack.
Whisk the extra egg (or egg white) and add a couple of teaspoons of water to make an egg wash.
Once the loaf is doubled, and just before placing in the oven, brush on the egg wash. Be sure to get the sides and make sure it's got a nice even coat.
7) Baking the Challah
Add hot water to the steam pan and transfer the loaf to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, turning half way through baking until it's a rich golden brown.
Remove the loaf from the pan at the end of 20 minutes and see if the lower crust is browned enough. If it is not browned enough, put it back in on a sheet pan or pizza screen for another 5 minutes. When I removed the loaf from the pan, it was a bit soft on the bottom so I put it on a baking sheet and placed it back in the oven for a couple of minutes until the bottom sounded hollow when I thumped on it.
8) Cooling and Slicing the Loaf
Allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing.
This egg bread reminds me of Brioche (without all the extra butter). It makes a fabulous grilled cheese sandwich. I served it with some kosher dill pickles. Sorry I didn’t take a photo of that part, but I enjoyed it immensely.
This bread probably freezes really well, but I don’t think that will be necessary this time. I’m enjoying it too much!
I also want to thank Anthony of the Artisan Bread Bakers for choosing this Italian Challah for the January BOM. It’s a wonderful bread! Thanks for sharing your family recipe!