Coconut Challah, Fresh From the Oven!
Though baking a fresh loaf of bread is a time consuming process, it’s one of the most rewarding kitchen experiences. The kneading and shaping and crafting, the gentle smell of the yeast as the bread rises, the magic of lifting the towel-veil to reveal a startling transformation of your dough from an ugly lump to something puffy and light. Then, of course, the heavenly aromas that fill your house as the bread bakes and linger for the rest of the day. Anyone who walks in is like a hound on a scent, tracking it to the kitchen and the cutting board where the loaf waits expectantly, knife beside it, beckoning. Just one little slice.
When I came across the Fresh From the Oven bread-baking challenge, I knew I had to be a part of it. What better excuse to set aside a day for the sheer pleasure of baking? This month, Dom from Belleau Kitchen challenged everyone to make a loaf of braided Challah bread. I’ve made Challah once before in my bread class at culinary school, but I can credit my first taste of Challah to my Jewish friend Alyssa back in high school. Since then, I have eaten (and thoroughly enjoyed) it many times. Challah is a very tender, faintly sweet and slightly eggy bread that should be shared. Whether sliced and served with a hearty supper or soaked in egg custard and griddled for a French toast breakfast, Challah is meant to bring people together and put smiles on their faces.
Since my mom is lactose intolerant and, to her chagrin, fairly soy intolerant as well, I decided to make this bread with coconut milk so I could share a few slices with her. Besides, I’m on a bit of a tropical fruit kick after my vacation in Mexico. I really had to restrain myself from baking a coconut-mango-cinnamon-pineapple Challah. I’m glad I did, or this exquisite loaf might have become a sloppy disaster. Instead, my version of Challah was mildly coconutty, a touch sweet, and very tender despite– or perhaps because of– using some whole-wheat pastry flour. The combination of unsweetened flaked coconut and raw sugar on the top creates a sugary, crunchy crust that I like to save for my last few bites.
© Copyright 2011 Carly Sullivan, Tart to Heart
- 2 1/2 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 1 cup coconut milk, warm
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/4 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, divided (one is for the glaze)
- 2 Tbsp (or so) unsweetened flaked coconut
- 1 Tbsp (or so) raw sugar
- Warm the coconut milk in the microwave or on the stove until it is just warm to the touch, about 100 degrees F. Place in a small bowl and add the honey and yeast. Whisk gently to combine, then let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the bread flour, whole wheat pastry flour and salt in a large bowl or in your stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Mix to combine.
- Add the yeast mixture, oil and ONE egg to the flour and mix on low speed to incorporate all the ingredients. Once combined, raise the speed to medium (or turn out the dough in a lightly floured surface) and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Add more bread flour as needed if the dough is too sticky. I ended up adding about 1/4 cup more flour.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2- 2 hours until doubled in size.
- Gently deflate the dough, then divide evenly into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a long strip about 16 inches long. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay your strips side by side on the baking sheet. Starting a the top, pinch together the three strips (use a little water to wet the dough if it doesn’t want to stick). Braid the strips as you would your hair, making sure there are no gaps. You want a tight, thick braid, not a long skinny one. Pinch the other end together, then tuck up underneath the braid so it looks neat and pretty:
Cover the braid with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. In the last 1o minutes, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Beat the second egg in a small bowl and brush evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle with the flaked coconut and the raw sugar:
Place in the preheated oven and bake 20 minutes. Tent with foil, then bake another 10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Let cool before slicing. Enjoy!
As I said before, this is not an overly-sweet bread. It has a very light, mild flavor that would pair well with just about anything. Or nothing. I’ve been slowly shaving off slices and eating them as is, though my sweet tooth especially enjoys it toasted up with honey or guava jelly.