You wish you were here. I added a little home made vanilla bourbon to the egg glaze hoping to add to the caramel color and give it a nice aroma. Nice doesn’t begin to describe it. This challah came out of the oven smelling exactly like fresh donuts. Not Krispie Kreme glazed donuts you picked up some time after 2pm when hit with the hungover munchies. No, these loaves of bread smell just like walking into a donut shop at 4:30 in the morning when the engine of sugary commerce is powerfully transforming wheat into wonderfully sweet breakfast delights. Just when you think it can’t be half as good as it smells, you bite in and get a mouth full of sweet Nutella, because sometimes the universe loves you.
Kitchen Overlord’s Easy Challah
1 ½ cups water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
4 tbsp honey
½ cup oil
6 ½ cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
½ cup Nutella
To make this dessert masquerading as bread, start by dumping a tablespoon of yeast into your stand mixer’s bowl along with a warm cup and a half of water. You want this to be a good, solid relaxing bath level of warmth. If it’ll scald you, it’ll kill your yeast. Dead yeast doesn’t raise bread.
Mix the two up until the yeast is pretty dissolved. Now, it’ll fluff up nicely on its own, but I like to really get my yeast party started by adding the honey at the start. Bubbles are made of yeast burps and farts, and nothing makes yeast cheerfully gassier than sugar. Let these living, subservient creatures have a good time. After all, you’re about to kill them for your own cruel enjoyment.
Walk away for about 15 minutes. That’s like 15 years in yeast time. You’ve been a good, benevolent deity. Now that your worshippers have partied hard, it’s time they learned some responsibility. Put those lazy buggers to work.
Add 3 of your eggs, all of your oil, and all of your salt to the bowl. Beat it a little, just to show you’re a capricious master. Now add the flour.
Good people will tell you to use the paddle attachment of your stand mixer to integrate everything then switch to the dough hook for the actual kneading. I’m not a good person. I’m a lazy bastard who hates extra dishes – especially dishes with fiddly bits. Just put the dough hook on there, lock the head into place, and set it to the leisurely speed of 2 for the next six minutes. You might need to scrape the sides once or twice.
Once you have a nice, firm ball of dough, remove the hook, cover the bowl with a clean towel, and walk away for the next hour. While you’re busy watching a rerun of Angel’s puppet episode (or whatever giddy ways you choose to pass the time) your yeast will create a whole new world full of promise and optimism where future generations of yeast can live together in peace and harmony. Once that world is about twice the size of the dough you left behind, punch their dreams in the face. With your fist. Literally, just hit the dough. Don’t go crazy. You’re not taking out a lifetime’s worth of rage. Just a single angry swing of your fist. Cover it back up to hide your shame, then walk away for another hour.
In your absence, the yeast will once more try to rebuild their broken civilization. On a hot day, they’ll actually do a pretty good job of it. If it’s cool out, it might take them closer to an hour and a half. Regardless of how long you let them labor under the false illusion that they’ll someday recover from the devastation wrought by your mighty fist, once they’ve rebuilt their civilization, beat it back down into submission with a single cruel blow.
Spread a handful of flour over your largest clean, flat surface. You’re going to need some room. Drop your hunk of broken dough on the flour and cut it in half. Cut each half into thirds. You should now have six pretty much equally sized masses of glutinous goodness.
Roll each hunk of dough into a nice tube. Pretend you’re in kindergarten and trying to make a snake. Don’t bother adding googly eyes or a mouth. All you need here is a long, fleshy tube. Now line those tubes up a few inches apart from one another and use a rolling pin to gently flatten them out. You don’t need to crush them under your merciless might. You just want to make enough room to comfortably add your Nutella.
You’d forgotten about that, hadn’t you. Get ready for the deliciousness. Use the back of a spoon to spread a generous line of Nutella down the middle of each strand. Be realistic here. When you’re done spreading the Nutella, you need enough dough left to pinch the sides closed. You want to create a dough based Nutella containment unit. Actually, you want to make six of them.
Once you have six Nutella stuffed dough tubes, pick the closest three and braid them together with all the seam sides facing down. Aww. They’re so pretty. Go braid the other three into a second loaf.
Butter the heck out of a pair of cookie sheets. I mean it. Go crazy. Now put one loaf on each pan, seam side down. Just like good plastic surgery, your goal here is to hide the scars. Put the cookie sheets on top of your oven and turn it up to 350. Your yeast will think it’s been given one last chance to rise up and try to match the former glory of those sweet honey and water times lo these two long hours ago, but really, you’re just readying the fires of destruction in which they will die.
While the yeast fights for one last gasp at life, go whisk together a teaspoon of vanilla and that fourth egg you’d forgotten about. Gently brush the egg wash over the surface of both loaves. Walk away for half an hour.
When you come back, it’s time for that hard working yeast to die so you, its brutal master, can feast. Put both loaves in the oven and bake them at 350F for 25-30 minutes. The tops should be a beautiful golden brown. If you’re not sure your challah is done, cover your hand with a mitt, pick up the loaf, and gently tap the bottom. If it sounds as hollow as the yeast’s last prayers, you’re done.
Now comes the hardest part. Do not shove the bread directly into any of your face orifices. Wait at least ten minutes. For one thing, there are still a few tasty chemical reactions going on inside those loaves. More importantly, though, you will burn the hell out of your mouth when you bite into a hot crust filled with molten Nutella. It’s not worth it. The only thing that’ll rip your mouth up more is eating an entire box of Captain Crunch. Wait. In ten minutes, you’ll have fresh, warm, fluffy, bread that melts in your mouth without causing you minor injuries.
If you have enough self restraint to stop yourself from eating two loaves of bread in one day, you can always wrap one up in plastic and put it in the freezer. It’ll thaw out just fine the next time you’re craving carby, chocolaty delights.