Poppy Seed Challah

The month of March was just not very productive for me in any segment of my life… After shredding a part of my finger early in the month, I didn’t have much desire to cook, bake or type. Lack of sunshine and warmth took its toll… I was so hoping for spring to come and all we got was snow and bitter cold. As I write this it’s still cold out, but the sun is shining, the trees and flowers are budding and it makes such a difference. I also took a few days off from work to spend with my family and to do the things I love – bake and paint.

Poppy seed challah

I really missed getting my hands sticky with dough and having the aroma of fresh baked goods around the house. All I could think of was to bake something good, warm and familiar and nothing sounded better than this challah bread topped with poppy seeds. Every bakery in Bosnia sells this bread. Their sizes range anywhere from a small knot, to an individual size challah to a large family challah. For me, it is an essential part of a good breakfast! It can be eaten just plain or spread with butter, jam, honey, paté or anything you may like. It can be used for a sandwich or for the bread pudding. It looks great on a holiday table!

I painted this while taking a break from baking
I painted this while taking a break from baking

Poppy Seed Challah

{print recipe}

Ingredients:

  • 500 g (4 cups) all-purpose flour (+ flour for kneading)
  • 21 g (0.7 oz) fresh yeast
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 200 ml (3/4 cup + 2 TBSP) warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 50 ml (about 1/4 cup) sunflower or vegetable oil
  • ½ TBSP salt
  • Milk for brushing
  • 2 TSBP poppy seeds

Preparation:

  1. Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Make a deep indent in flour, add 1 TBSP of sugar and crumble up the yeast. Lightly mixing by hand, add ¼ of the quantity of water. Mix only inside the indent, just to get a small ball of starter. Cover and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the rest of the water with oil, egg and salt and stir well. Put the flour bowl back on the mixer and mixing at a slow speed start adding the liquid. Switch to medium speed setting and mix for about 3-, rest for about 3- and then mix for 3 more minutes.
  3. Dough will look nice and smooth. Cover it and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and knead the dough by hand for a few minutes. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces, depending on what you want to make, a three- or four-strand challah.
  5. Shape each piece into a foot long strand. Transfer all the pieces onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Braid the strands to form a challah. Cover the bread and let it rest and rise for about 30 minutes.
  6. Brush the bread with milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
  7. Bake at 200 C or 395 F for about 35-40 minutes or until challah gets a nice,  golden-brown color.

***More about shaping a four-strand challah here.

Proofing yeast for challah dough
Proofing yeast for challah dough

Making challah dough

Making challag

Poppy Seed Challah

Poppy Seed Challah

Poppy Seed Challah

Poppy Seed Challah

Poppy Seed Challah

Poppy Seed Challah

Braided Breakfast Bread

Every time I want to bake something with yeast I remember my mama. She was the queen of yeast doughs. She didn’t use any recipes either. She would throw together a little bit of this, a little bit of that and it would turn into one of those things that people write a two page recipe for. Mama enjoyed making everything fresh and from scratch, of course! 🙂 She would get up early in the morning, I mean really early! She would start a dough, and by the time my sister and I were getting ready for school the whole house would be enveloped in the fragrant aroma of mama’s baked goods. After all that early morning work she still had plenty of energy to dress up, do her hair, put some make up on and go meet some 25 other people’s children and teach them with a smile.

This morning I tried to throw together few things my self, hoping it would turn into one of mama-like heavenly breakfast breads. I would say it turned out ok. I should have let it rise longer, but impatient me didn’t… Anyway, the house smelled wonderfuly and the bread tasted great, but it just wasn’t as mama’s…

Braided Breakfast Bread                                 Printable recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups (450 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (65 g) dry milk powder
  • ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp dry yeast
  • 1 lemon (zest)
  • 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) warm water
  • ½ stick (50 g) butter (soft)
  • 1 egg
  • 3.5 oz (100 g) raisins
  • 3.5 oz (100 g) dried apricots (chopped)
  • 1.8 oz (50 g) dried cranberries

Egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream

Preparation:

  1. Soak all dried fruit in warm water for about 30 minutes.
  2. Combine flour, dry milk powder, sugar, yeast, and mix well. Gradually start adding water. Add lemon zest. When almost combined, add egg and butter. Mix for few more minutes, then add in dried fruit.
  3. Cover and let it rest for about two hours or until doubled in volume.
  4. Now place the dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead it for few minutes. Divide it into 4 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a long 12-14 inch (30-35 cm) log. Pinch all four pieces together and form a braid.
  5. Place the braid onto a baking pan, brush with the egg wash, cover and let it rise for another 45 minutes to an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) and bake for about 30-45 minutes or until nice, golden-brown color.

Enjoy!