Not much compares to the fragrance of a fresh log of dough morphing into a shapely loaf of bread. It is no surprise that every culture & ethnicity boasts its own unique bread. Italians are crazy about ciabatta, the French obsess over sourdough, Mexico is known for its corn tortillas & tamales (flat bread, but bread non the less), the Irish love their soda bread, Americans have a thing for Wonderbread (that I have not quiet figured out) & so on and so forth.
I personally like grainy breads, but all artisan bread, so long as it’s fresh is kind of magical.
This recipe comes from Jessamyn Waldman of the Hot Bread Kitchen in New York. It is a flavorful Mediterranean Challah graced with fragrant caraway & cardamom, then wrapped into a “turban shaped loaf”.
Sweet Challah Bread
3 Tbsp sesame seeds, 1 1/2 Tbsp caraway seeds, 1 1/2 Tbsp of cardamom pods (ground into small pieces) , 1 envelope active dry yeast, 2 cups lukewarm water, 5 cups all purpose flour, 2 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp kosher salt, Cornmeal for dusting, 2 large egg yolks
In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds, caraway seeds & cardamom over moderate heat until fragrant. This should only take about 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Combine the flour with olive oil, honey & the remaining water. Knead until the dough forms. Add the kosher salt, yeast mixture & all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds.
Knead for ten minutes (yes, it’s worth it). Using oiled hands, transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl & let stand in a draft-free spot until the dough is risen. This takes a little more or less than an hour depending on the temperature of your house.
Oil a pizza or bread stone, then dust with cornmeal. Flip the dough onto a floured surface & press gently to deflate. Cut the dough in half & let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope & let rest for 5 minutes longer. Carefully roll rope into a 32-inch rope. Beginning at the center, work your way to the outside, coiling the rope like a turban. Tuck the ends under the coil, cover with an inverted bowl & let stand for an hour
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks & 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves & let stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash once more and sprinkle with the reserved 1 tablespoon of seeds. Bake the loaves one at a time in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until they’re golden. Transfer the loaves to racks to let cool completely before slicing.
Ah… it’s good to be back!