Chocolate Orange Challah Bread

Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water (between 100 and 110°F)
  • A thermometer (for yeast proofing and to ensure bread is finished)
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk (save whites for egg wash)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 1/2 ounces of chocolate (I used 4 ounces of bittersweet and 1/2 ounce of unsweetened)
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup diced candied orange peels (I had orange peels left over after I juiced some oranges)
Instructions
  • Proof the yeast. Just do it. 
  • Whisk 4 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt. 
  • Make a well in your dry ingredients. Add the eggs, yolk, oil, and zest. Whisk together. It is okay if you pull in flour from the sides. 
  • Pour the yeast over the egg mixture. Stir the yeast, egg mixture, and flour with a wooden (or long-handled) spoon until it is difficult to mix. 
  • Turn your oven on to its lowest temperature. Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. 
  • Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Turn off your oven and place the bowl inside. Let the dough rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It should double in size.  
  • After the dough rises, make the chocolate filling by melting the chocolate with the butter. Then, add the sugar and cocoa powder. Remove from heat. 
  • Divide the dough in half. Roll out each section into a rectangle about 15"x10" and 1/4" thick. Spread the chocolate filling to the edges, except on the top and bottom, where you should leave 1/2-1" margin (designer terminology). Evenly distribute the candied orange peels. Roll the dough as if you were making cinnamon rolls. Once you reach the end, wet your hands and thinly spread the dough onto your work surface. Finish rolling and smooth out the edge. Repeat with other half of dough. Let logs rest, covered, for 1 hour.
  • Cut each log in half lengthwise. This results in 4 logs. Lay logs 1 and 2 side by side, horizontally. Take log 3 and weave it vertically between logs 1 and 2 by placing it over log 1 and under log 2. You will weave log 4 between logs 1 and 2, placing it under log 1 and over log 2. Notice that you now have a "plus sign" with 4 sets of 2 "legs". Take the leg of log 4 and cross it over the leg of log 3. Repeat on all sets of "legs" counterclockwise. Then, take the leg of log 3 and cross it over the leg of log 1 and repeat on all sets of "legs" clockwise. Use the photos below for reference. Repeat this process until your legs get too short to continue. Tuck the ends underneath. Cover with a towel and let rise for two hours. 
  • Turn your oven on to 350°F. Whisk egg whites and 1 teaspons of water and brush it over the challah. Pay attention the the details of loaf and cover it well. 
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through. The challah should be deeply browned and register 190°F in the middle of the loaf. (My challah took about 50 minutes to register 190°. After about 40, I covered the loaf with foil to prevent additional browning.) Cool on a wire rack. 

On what we don't know

I've never been traditional. I'd even say I have an aversion to falling in line, becoming another casualty of society, a victim of conformity. Obviously my adolescence was All Killer and No Filler.

My anti-traditionalism even found it's way into my food. But if I'm going to evolve as a cook, I need to explore some traditional landscapes. Starting with yeast bread.

What is challah bread? First, it is pronounced "hallah". You know, like "holla". In Judaism, it is customary to start each of the Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday late afternoon) with 2 loaves of challah bread. This is to celebrate the manna, or edible substance, that God provided to the Israelites after the Exodus. Traditional challahs do not contain dairy or meat, but they do contain eggs, meaning this is not a vegan recipe. Additionally, this loaf is not gluten-free. Remember, we are sticking to tradition.

I originally used a recipe from Yin and Yolk. After two batches refused to rise, I had to give up on this recipe. What was the problem? I'm really not sure. She used 1/3 cup of orange juice instead of my 1 cup of water. She hypothesizes that yeast buds better in an acidic environment, but my theoretical research has not been able to support or reject such conjecture. I did, however, have 2 wasted batches of dough. Does that constitute as practical research? It is important to note that I did use egg replacer in these two batches. I cannot find anything that says egg replacer kills yeast and none of the ingredients raise suspicion, however, the batches with egg replacer didn't rise. See? Too many variables to pinpoint the culprit. 

The first thing you need to know before making this challah bread is how the hell yeast baking works on a fundamental level. There's a lot to learn here and I've avoided it because it was overwhelming to me. A lot like following college basketball. I'll be succinct in my findings. 

Once your dough rises, this is what you're gonna do. 

You'll want each of these logs to rise for another hour. Now for the fun part! Braiding the loaf. There's no easy way to explain how to braid this. I'm sorry. I did my best in the instructions, but really the pictures are gold. 

This challah bread is awesome to look at and super tasty! It is the right amount of sweet if you aren't crazy about sweets. The flavors are subtle, yet possess depth with chocolate on the front and orange on the back.

It was indeed difficult for me to execute, mainly because I didn't know what the hell I was doing. Frustration lead to determination, which inspired me to, you know, actually learn some stuff. What was it Dr. Suess said? "The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." I think that includes your tastebuds. So, holla at that stuff you don't know.  

 


1. "Activity: Yeast Air Balloons." Science of Cooking. n.p., n.d. Web. 24 April 2016.  

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