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Recipe: Honey Raisin Challah

The breads we bake at Hot Bread Kitchen are inspired by our bakers, and challah is Founder Jessamyn’s contribution to our repertoire. Sweet challahs are made on holidays to symbolize bringing about joy and happiness.


Pâte Fermentée

The first step in the process of making challah, pâte fermentée is a fully formed, simple dough that bakers mix into the final dough to kick-start the fermentation process. 

Ingredients

  • ½ cup, plus 1 teaspoon lukewarm water
  • ⅔ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1⅓ cup, plus 1 tablespoon bread flour 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Method

  1. Place the water and yeast in a bowl, then add the four and salt. Mix until it forms a shaggy dough.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Place the covered dough in the refrigerator for at least 8 hour, preferrably 24.
  4. Can be used cold.

Photo by Jennifer May

Honey Raisin Challah

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups bread flour (plus more for shaping)
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 recipe pâte fermentée (recipe above), cut into walnut-size pieces
  • 3 large eggs yolks, beaten
  • 2½ tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons water (more as needed)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (plus more for bowl)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Method

  1. Put the bread flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the pâte fermentée, egg yolks, honey, water, and oil and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated and the yeast has disappeared into the dough. Add a little extra water if this hasn’t happened in three minutes.
  2. Increase the speed to medium-high until the dough becomes smooth, pulls away from the sides of the bowl, has a bit of shine, and makes a slapping noise against the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. The dough will look smooth and feel slightly tacky.
  3. Add the raisins, mixing as briefly as possible until they’re evenly distributed, about 1 minute.
  4. Coat the inside of a large bowl with oil and transfer the dough to it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or put the whole bowl in a large plastic bag) and let stand until the dough is supple and puffy, about 1 hour at room temperature.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 equal pieces (each weighing about 15 ounces/430 grams.) Leave one piece covered under plastic while you shape the other as a turban. Repeat the process with a second piece of dough. Set the coiled loaves on parchment-lined baking sheet, evenly spacing them apart.
  6. Carefully brush the challahs with the beaten eggs, reserving whatever is left over for a second egg wash. Put the entire baking sheet in a large plastic bag or cover the challahs loosely with plastic wrap and let them stand until they’re softer than firm balloons, are supple, and hold indentations when pressed lightly, about 1 hour.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Uncover the challahs and gently brush them again with the reserved egg. Bake the loaves until they’re mahogony colored and sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of the loaves, 30–40 minutes. Insert a thin knife between strands to make sure dough is firm–it should have the density of a well-baked cake.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour. Store leftovers in a plastic bag at room temperature or freeze.
Reprinted with permission from The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez (Clarkson Potter).