My adventurousness in the kitchen started at a very early age. Nothing speaks more to that than my 5th grade science fair project. That year, I decided I didn’t want to build a solar system diorama like everyone else. After some brainstorming and research at the Public Library (remember those?), I landed on my idea of a *cool* project. Perched atop my foam board was a sign that read: “Does baking powder or yeast rise more?”
Well, people, I wish I had the answer. (I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seat, am I right?) As I sought out to answer this burning question, I decided that I would bake a dozen or so loaves of different breads—two of each kind, one with yeast and one with baking powder. Then, I measured their heights with a ruler and kept score between the yeast and BP. No big deal—except I was 10 years old, with no mixer and no experience baking bread. Let’s just say my 5th grade testing methods weren’t the most…scientifically sound. Somehow I managed, but I’m pretty sure the judges only gave me Honorable Mention out of sympathy when they pictured me slaving away over pounds of dough. All in all, my first venture into bread baking was unusual, to say the least.
Fast forward over a decade later, and I’ve come full circle, diving right back into bread baking but in a much more manageable way. For me, there’s always been something really special about baking bread. The whole process—mixing, kneading, resting, rising, shaping, and baking—is therapeutic. The ingredients are simple (often just flour, water, yeast, and salt) which makes the results even that more miraculous. Many times when I’m making bread, I find myself thinking: “People have been baking bread like this for thousands of years!” Man, that thought really lights a fire under me. Have they been making cake pops or cronuts that long? Definitely Not.
Today, we’re talking about challah—a traditional Jewish egg-y bread. Challah is known to be light and fluffy, slightly sweet, and beautifully braided. I found a pumpkin recipe that gives the challah a hint of warm spice and a gorgeous orange hue. This recipe is pretty simple to make especially if you have a stand mixer to do the kneading for you. For first time challah-bakers, I’ll warn that the braiding is a little trickier than it looks, but you definitely get the hang of it. I’m on my third batch in 2 weeks because I loved it so much that I had to send some to my family to try. In the mornings, I love to eat it in thick slices, lightly toasted with butter + jam. (Nine times out of ten, I finish it standing over the toaster before it even makes it to my plate.) Also, if it manages to last that long, I know this pumpkin challah would make amazing french toast!
Makes one large or two small loaves
- ½ cup warm water (about 100 to 110 degrees F)
- 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) plus 1 teaspoon instant yeast (3¼ teaspoons total)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water)
- This recipe makes one large loaf, but I also found it fun to make two smaller loaves for sharing
- Using instant dry yeast means you can skip the first rise and replace it with just a 10 min rest period. This means you can shape the dough into a braid right away—bringing you that much closer to eating
- I didn’t have wheat flour on hand so I used all AP and it worked fine
- Roll the dough gently into ropes rather than pulling, which can cause tears in the surface of the bread when baked
- Some recipes call for a double egg wash to get the exterior extra shiny as challah often is (one application right after braiding and one after the dough rests and rises)
- Check if bread is done when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F (my two small loaves took about 25 min)
- Slather with butter, jam, or whatever you want and enjoy!