‘Tis the season for pumpkin and I’ve been practicing my bread braiding lately so naturally my next step would be to braid pumpkin. I mean, duh, obviously.
I believe challah is traditionally a four-rope braid and, although my skills are vastly improved from my first attempt, I have not quite achieved that level of skill yet. So, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, I stuck with practicing my three rope braid. Next time I think I will be ready to level up my skills to four ropes.
Having never made challah, apparently there are about a bajillion different recipes and a katrillion ways to make it, so basically every source of research was useless to me. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to keep it dairy-free, because I feel like if you’re putting dairy in your challah it is no longer challah.
Not that it isn’t some other dairy-licious egg bread, it’s just not challah. Not really. And why would I want to have not-challah when I was craving challah?
The end result was surprisingly good, especially when you take into consideration that I had almost no idea what I was doing. It had the perfect challah texture that I was looking for. Though the pumpkin gives the bread a stunning orange hue, the pumpkin’s flavor wasn’t overly pronounced. In fact, if you left out the cinnamon and spices you could easily serve it alongside dinner. Either version will transform beautifully into french toast or bread pudding, but more on that coming later.
This bread, like all bread, is best eaten the day its made but will freeze beautifully as well. Since I lost my memory card last weekend when I made this bread, these pictures are actually from my defrosted loaf.
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 package instant dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks, whites reserved
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 3 Tablespoons + 1 Tablespoon neutral vegetable oil; divided
- 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour + 1 cup, reserved
- 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- Mix yeast with water and sugar; set aside 5 minutes until foamy.
- In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat in the pumpkin, 3 tablespoons oil, honey, eggs, yolks, and salt. Beat on medium speed until combined.
- Add 1 cup of flour and beat on low until combined. Add additional cup and continue beating until combined.
- Continue adding remaining 2 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, kneading until smooth and elastic.
- If the dough is too wet and stick, continue adding last cup of flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough becomes smooth. I actually ended up dumping mine out onto the counter to knead by hand so that I could judge the texture better. You want it to be soft enough to keep a dent when your finger pokes it, but not sticky enough to stick to your finger.
- Once desired consistency is reached, pour 1 tablespoon of oil into a large bowl. Add dough to bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set in a warm place until doubled in size 60 to 90 minutes.
- Once doubled in size, gentlly punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly-floured surface.
- Divide into 3 equal portions, and roll each into a 14 to 17-inch rope. (You could do a 4 or more ropes of dough but I'm not that skilled).
- Once braided, place onto baking sheet and cover with oiled plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set in a warm place to proof until doubled in size, another 60 - 90 minutes.
- When nearing the end of the bread proofing time, preheat the oven to 375 F. I usually set mine above the stove and turn the stove on about 30 minutes into proofing. The heat from the stove warms the top of the oven just enough to give my bread an extra boost.
- Beat remaining two egg whites. Brush bread with egg white and place into oven. Bake 40 to 50 minutes.
- Check on the bread at the 30 minute mark, if it is browning too quickly tent with foil and continue cooking. You can tell the bread is done when it is a beautiful deep golden brown and is firm and hollow when tapped. The internal temperature should be around 190F, for those of you who are into that sort of thing.
This bread, like all bread, is best eaten the day it is baked but will freeze beautifully as well. To freeze bread, wrap tightly in plastic wrap then again in foil to freeze. Thaw bread still wrapped at room temperature for a few hours or overnight.
If you don't want to make this all in one day, you could allow the bread to do its first rise overnight in the fridge. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour before proceeding with shaping the dough.