>> Monday, December 21, 2009
As mentioned in the marathon post, I devoured a hearty helping of challah French toast in Philly last month after the race. It was seriously the best French toast I've ever, ever had -- fluffy, filling, and extremely flavorful. Naturally, I wanted to replicate the taste in my own kitchen.
But make my own challah? It looks so difficult!
Not only that . . . when I opened my trusty Martha Stewart baking bible to the challah recipe, I noticed that not just 1, not just 2, not just 3, but EIGHT egg yolks were required to make her version. Yes, I do eat eggs. Eight of them, though, seemed excessive. (And I get it, challah is braided egg bread -- hence the large number of eggs -- but I ultimately planned to make French toast with it, so I opted to go a bit lighter.)
Post Punk Kitchen to the rescue! I knew there must be some type of vegan recipe floating around blogland. So when I found the vegan challah recipe on PPK, I smiled, jumped up and down a bit, and dug my hands -- elbow-deep -- into a big bowl of flour. (If you'd like to make challah using eggs, but would also like a healthier result, check out Laura's version -- made with whole wheat flour and multigrain hot cereal -- yum!)
What you'll need . . .
- 2 1/2 Tbsp dry active yeast
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups wheat pastry flour
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 overripe (mostly black) bananas -- I actually used one banana and one extra-ripe plantain
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup cold water
- another half cup of boiling water for brushing braids
- sesame seeds
Method . . .
- In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water (I whisked mine with a fork until frothy), put to the side to stand for approx. 10 minutes.
- Mash bananas in your electric mixer until runny, like egg yolks.
- In large bowl mix together the canola oil, brown sugar, salt, and boiling water. Stir until well incorporated.
- Add the cold water to the large bowl. Stir in yeast mix.
- Add bananas.
- Add flour, one cup at a time -- this part is important. I used a spatula to mix mine, carefully one cup at a time. Near the end (last two cups), I used my hands.
- Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-10 min, dough should be smooth and elastic.
- Lightly coat the large mixing bowl in oil, turn the dough in it to just coat it with oil, place a damp towel or plastic wrap over the dough in the bowl and let it rise for about 1 hr (double in size).
- Punch dough down, turn out and knead again 2-3 min.
- Divide dough into 2 large balls. Then divide each ball into 3 sections, roll each section into long ropes and make 2 braids. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Let the braids rise on a baking sheet for 45 min. Boil a little more water. Just before putting braids in the oven, brush them with boiling water, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake 30 min -- that's all the time you'll need. PPK says, "You'll know they're done when you tap them on the bottom and they sound hollow."
- Let cool on a drying rack for 10 min before slicing.
The resulting challah is lightly sweet with a slight banana-y taste. If you're planning, like we were, on using it for French toast (or maybe a grilled peanut butter sandwich? say yes!), this flavor note is well appreciated! If not, deal with it. It's vegan challah, and it's amazing!
Note: This recipe yields two hefty loaves. One is still sitting in our freezer waiting for its trip to PA where -- get this mom and dad -- we'll be making MORE breakfast deliciousness for X-mas morning. And I've already received a request to make more. Guess I know what I'll be doing next week.
Overall, don't let bread baking intimidate you. EVEN when the bread is fancy and braided. If I had shied away, I wouldn't have all these glamour shots to share with you. Or two buxom brag-worthy loaves. Don't think I'm leaving you hanging, either. Tomorrow I plan to share part two of this magnificent festival of flavor: the cinnamon French toast post.