One of my favorite weekend breakfasts is French Toast. When I was young, my mom would make us French Toast with extra thick Texas toast. They would be custardy in the middle, and crispy on the outside. I’d smother it with jam and powered sugar, rarely ever using maple syrup.
Instead of my mom making them, it’s often now something the boyfriend and I do together on a leisurely morning at home. Normally, we’ll go to the store the night before and pick up some Challah bread, but this time I was inspired to do better – why buy it when you can make it? So I took to the Kitchen Aid and set out to perfect an already wonderful breakfast tradition.
3/4 tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4-1 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 large eggs, plus one for the egg wash before baking
1/2 tablespoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup raisins, optional, plumped in hot water and drained
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling
Scale, stand mixer with dough hook, large bowl, and whisk.
Step One, the Yeast:
I always begin my breads by combining the yeast in the water. Make sure your water is between 105-110 degrees for optimal growth. Throw in a little sugar to help activate the yeast. Within a few minutes, the mixture should be a little foamy – this is how you know your yeast is active and ready to go!
Step Two, Combine Wet Ingredients:
Take your the mixture, oil and eggs and whisk to combine.
Step Three, Flour Power:
Measure out the dry ingredients and add to the bowl of your stand mixer (or regular large bowl if doing by hand). Start the dough hook, and add the wet ingredient mixture. Continue mixing until all ingredients are combined and pulling from the bowl. The dough should be manageable by hand.
At this point, you can continue using the dough hook to knead the bread for 4-7 minutes, or you can continue this part by hand. I like to do this part on the counter by hand.
Step Four, Rise Up:
At this point, your dough is ready for it’s first rise. Return the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about an hour or until doubled in size. Once doubled, punch down the dough and get ready for shaping.
Step Five, Braid Away:
If you’re using the raisins, knead them into the dough before you begin shaping. If you want to make a traditional 6-piece braided Challah, take your dough and cut it into 6 even pieces. Roll each piece out about 12 inches. Line all six pieces up parallel to each other.
Once you’ve lined up the six pieces, pinch together all six at the top. Take the far right piece and lay it across all of them to the left. Take the second left piece (the original left most piece before you moved the one from the right over) and bring it across to the right. Take the original one you moved from the right to the left and bring it over the middle. Repeat on each side all the way down.
I realize this is pretty confusing. I read and read blogs on this and didn’t get it until I watched a video on YouTube about it. Rest assured, there are many out there! A simple search there will help tremendously if needed.
Once you get all the way down the loaf, take the ends and gently fold them under. You should end up with something like this:
Set on a cookie sheet that’s lined with parchment paper. I always use parchment paper to ensure that the loaf doesn’t stick to the pan.
Step Six, Egg Wash and Sprinkle:
Whisk the egg and brush over your loaf. Let your braid rest, covered, in a warm place for 30 mins to an hour or until soft and risen. Once you’re ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Give your loaf another brush of the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds as you like.
Pop into the oven on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
This bread is wonderful next day as French Toast or Bread Pudding.