This weekend, three good things happened:
1) My mom came to Houston.
2) My mom brought a lot of stuff.
3) My mom brought a lot of stuff.
Or should that last one be “My mom came to Houston”? I don’t want to make it sound like I was more excited to see the “stuff” than “her,” but omg. It was such. Good. Stuff. When my mom unpacked her suitcase full of goodies, it was as if I had packed myself a surprise gift from California. I guess that is what they mean when they say “I am my mother’s daughter.”
She brought: beautiful, vibrant tomatoes and little green bell peppers from her garden, insanely sweet white nectarines from the farmer’s market, chocolate chip walnut banana bread, a sack of Granny Smith apples from the tree in our backyard (for apple crisp) and the thing that I’ve been waiting to have forever…A FOOD PROCESSOR/BLENDER!!! Hello chickpea cookie cakes and frozen banana ice cream and spinach smoothies!!!
We had most of the weekend planned out, so I knew that we were going to brunch at my place on Saturday and my mom mentioned that maybe she and my sister could try my “famous” French toast.
So, I always thought that those fluffy delicious breads like brioche and challah always had to be white flour, all the time. But then I saw Kayle of The Cooking Actress‘s whole wheat challah and it was only too clear what would be coming out of my kitchen next. (Have you seen her blog? It’s literally stuffed with yummy things like brown butter mac n’ cheese, cinnamon bun scones and s’mores creme brulee. And who doesn’t want to be friends with an actress? Especially a COOKING actress??)
This recipe is so simple to throw together, and so rewarding. The only taxing thing is the patience required to wait out the 90 minute total wait time. It yields a soft, plush loaf–mine was practically tearing at the braided seams when I lifted it off the baking sheet. It’s much more of a tender, sandwich-y-like bread than the cinnamon swirl brioche, which was a little crustier and sturdier. The honey is a subtle background sweetness.
But, it’s not necessarily the most harmonious accompaniment to cinnamon sugar. I used my go-to French toast batter for French toast and my mom and sister said it was delicious. If you want my opinion on the B E S T French toast bread, I think the cinnamon swirl brioche is a clear winner. But this challah is not a bad, healthier option to have, and it makes unheard-of-good peanut butter toast.
Even though this may not have been the best batch of French toast I’ve ever made, I was happy I could make it for my mom. The first start in a long road of meals I hope to make, thanking her for all the meals she’s made for me.
Of course, I didn’t have whole wheat flour on hand when I made this, so I used white whole wheat flour. It made for a lovely, lightly tan loaf, though the original recipes says all whole wheat is the way to go.
I’m calling this “easy” because it’s really a “dump, stir, knead, wait, braid, bake” kind of recipe. As long as you have yeast you can count on, you can count on a delicious loaf of bread. Don’t be afraid to heavily flour your surface before kneading–my dough was extremely sticky. You can most definitely probably use a stand mixer with a dough hook instead of kneading by hand, but I found it therapeautic to squish dough around for seven or so minutes (I did not knead it for the full recommended 10 minutes).
This recipe is easily doubled (and was, in fact, doubled in the original recipe), but I find that one loaf is the perfect amount to feed about five people, or three people with not an insane amount of leftovers.
Also, though I usually play with oven times, this was done right at 30 minutes. On the dot.
Easy Wheat Challah
Lightly adapted from allrecipes
2 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup warm water (I microwaved mine for about 25 seconds. It should be warm, not hot–it should be comfortable to dip your finger in to test the water)
1 egg white, for brushing
sesame seeds, for sprinkling
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast until well mixed. In another bowl, combine the honey, olive oil, water and egg. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until it forms a dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. For me, this meant I pushed it around until it was pretty smooth and no longer stuck to my hands. Form the dough into a round shape. Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn the dough over a few times to oil the surface. Cover the bowl with a cloth, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Gently knead the dough a few times to remove some of the bubbles. Divide into three equal balls.
- Working on a floured surface, roll the dough pieces into ropes about 12 inches long. Ropes should be fatter in the middle and thinner at the ends. Pinch 3 ropes together at the top and braid them. Starting with the strand to the right, move it to the left over the middle strand (that strand becomes the new middle strand.) Take the strand farthest to the left, and move it over the new middle strand. Continue braiding, alternating sides each time, until the loaf is braided, and pinch the ends together and fold them underneath for a neat look. Repeat for the other loaf, place the braided loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with about 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds.
- Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Incredible eaten warm, but also amazing eaten several days later as French toast.
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