Challah Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour and Creative Jewish Mom)

1/2 cup lukewarm water
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

Golden raisins

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them, by hand, mixer, or bread machine, until you have a soft, smooth dough.

Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.

You may braid the challah the traditional way, into a three-strand braid. For a fancier presentation, make a four-strand braid into a round loaf, as follows.

challah braid

Step 1: Divide the dough into four pieces, and shape each piece into a rough 6″ log. Cover the logs with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Step 2: Roll each log into a 15″ rope. Flatten piece of dough, place raisins on top, and reshape into a rope. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Continue rolling the ropes til they’re about 20″ long; they’ll shrink back to about 18″ as they sit.

Step 3: Arrange strips according to photo

Step 4: Working clockwise, cross A over B, C over D, E over F and G over H

Step 5: Now working in the opposite direction, cross B over G, H over E, F over C (Whoops, I made a mistake in my braiding, F should be over C) and D over A

Step 6: Now working clockwise once again, cross G over D, A over F, C over H and E over B. If you have more dough left to braid, repeat step 5.

Step 7: Pinch the ends together and bring up the four sets of ends to the center of the challah. Pinch those together.

Step 8: And now for the magic, flip your whole loaf over and ta da! A perfectly braided round loaf,

Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let it rise till it’s very puffy, 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water, and brush this glaze over the risen loaf.

Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will insulate the bread’s bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes.

Tent the challah loosely with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 25 minutes and start checking for doneness every 10 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.

Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.

French Toast (adapted from Alton Brown)

1 cup half-and-half
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
4 tablespoons butter

In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.