The Perfect Challah For The Thanksgiving Table
People have some strong feelings about pumpkin spice: Some love it, some loathe it. Once autumn arrives, I want to put cinnamon, clove and pumpkin in just about everything, including challah. Once this challah bakes up, your kitchen will smell like pure autumnal heaven. If by some chance you have leftovers, it makes wonderful French toast or indulgent bread pudding.
Pumpkin Spice Challah
Yields 2 medium loaves
For the dough:
1 ½ tablespoons yeast
¾ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
5 ½–6 cups unbleached bread flour (preferably King Arthur)
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground clove
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup canned or puréed pumpkin
1) For the dough: In a small bowl, place the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and lukewarm water. Stir gently to mix. Allow to sit about 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
2) In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1 ½ cups of the flour, salt, ¾ cup sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to the flour mixture along with the oil, vanilla and pumpkin. Mix thoroughly.
3) Add another 1 cup of the flour and 2 eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
4) Add another 2 cups of the flour and mix thoroughly. Remove from the bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead the remaining 1 to 1 ½ cups flour into the dough, continuing to knead for about 5 minutes. If the dough seems too soft, add ¼ to ½ cup flour until it is firmer.
5) Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise 3 hours.
6) Divide the dough in two and braid the challahs into desired shape. (The book contains braiding instructions, or you can find them online.)
7) Place braided challah on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Allow the challah to rise another 30–60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and the challah seems light. Preheat oven to 375° F while the dough rises.
For the topping:
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon water
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼–½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (optional)
1) For the topping: In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 teaspoon water. In another small bowl combine the ¼ cup sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.
2) Brush the egg wash liberally over the challah. Sprinkle the pepitas in a single layer on top of the challah, followed by the cinnamon sugar and the coarse sea salt if desired.
3) Bake 24–26 minutes, or until the color is golden.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Modern Jewish Baker: Challah, Babka, Bagels & More” by Shannon Sarna (Countryman Press).