In keeping with the season, Jason and I went to a holiday party last night. It was a potluck-style affair, and I had a hankering for challah bread (kind of funny to bring a traditional Jewish food item to a Pagan affair, but what the hey, I’m a modern gal). I couldn’t remember my favorite recipe so of course I went to the googles, where I stumbled upon THIS magical concept from WhatJewWannaEat (hah)– RAINBOW FREAKING CHALLAH!
This is Amy’s photo. From her liberal use of puns, coupled with her affinity for bright colors, I conclude that she is awesome and we should be friends. In fact I have decided we already are, whether she knows it or not. I heart you, Amy!
My step-mother asked if there was a reason for the rainbow, such as Pride, or Rainbow Brite Day, or what have you, to which I replied,
“Because I can!”
I used a slightly different recipe (I wanted an eggier version), but went with Amy’s steps and color-guidance (double thanks for the note to use gloves when kneading– I would have just stuck my mitts in there). Here’s the result:
First you whip up a batch of challah dough. I’m not a real food blogger so I won’t try to poetically describe the individual steps– find a challah recipe that looks good to you and go with it. Once the dough comes together, right at the point you would turn it out and knead it into oblivion, stop and divide it into 6 balls. I weighed them on my postal scale (because Amy recommended it and I lurrrve her) to get them pretty close to equal. Add gel food coloring to each ball, don some rubber gloves, and knead each one individually. Really work the color in and get it completely blended into the dough or you get streaky bread, unless you like that sort of thing.
Pro: you get kneading and color in one go.
Con: you have to knead 6 times instead of one. Give yourself extra time if you make this!!!
Ooooh look at my beautiful little dough-lumps– so precious! Place them in a greased bowl, cover them with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-1.5 hours.
After the first rise they were not so precious and had ballooned to monster rainbow globs. They stuck together a bit but since they got good and rolled up again later it really didn’t seem worth separating them. Plus they get lonely.
Separate the color balls, punch them down, re-cover and let rise again about 1/2 hour. This time I separated them onto 2 cookie sheets covered in plastic wrap because they had gotten too big for their britches.
After the second rise, it’s braiding time!!! Most challah recipes make 2 loaves, so divide each color ball into 2 pieces. Now you have 12 color balls, unless something has gone very mathematically wrong. Pretend you are in kindergarten and roll each ball into a snake. If your dough is sticky, flour your surface a bit.
Shorter fatter snakes will make shorter fatter bread– I went for supermodel snakes because I wanted to get more color-braid action. Here are my snakes ready for braiding. I call them Kate, Giselle, Heidi, Naomi, Cindy and Alphonse.
Arrange them in proper rainbow order and pinch lightly at the top. I say lightly because you may want to tighten the top end once your braid is done.
To do a 6-strand braid, you start with the right-most strand and take it over 2, under 1, over 2. Then do it again, always with the right-most strand This sounds hard but is really quite simple and goes fast, and the color coding makes it extra-easy. So, purple goes OVER blue and green, UNDER yellow, OVER orange and red. Then blue goes OVER green and yellow, UNDER orange, OVER red and purple, and so on. The dough is pretty strong stuff, but be gentle and try to get your braid pretty tight to get the most color changing effect. When you get to the end, pinch all the strands together tightly and roll them under your loaf to form a solid end. Go back to your top end and tighten the braid if necessary, then pinch that end together as well.
My super-model braid ended up quite long. Perhaps more than is necessary since it is spilling off the sheet but I love it anyway.
I just want to wrap my head in it.
Once your loaves are braided, give them a quick egg-wash, cover again and let rise in a warm place until double-to-triple the size; about one to 1.5 hours.
Here it is after the egg wash. I had to take another picture because it was so shiny it didn’t look real.
Here’s the same loaf after the last rise. The light is not as pretty because I’d been working on this so long it went and got dark. Also, a live-and-learn note: I baked this on the cookie sheet despite it being too big. It worked out alright but I should have just put it on an appropriately-sized greased piece of foil, as it kind of draped over the edges in a not-so-grand way. Also, I think next time I’l sprinkle corn meal on my baking surface to avoid any sticking. Learn from my mistakes, oh ye people!
Once the last rise is done, preheat the oven to 350 and give the loaves one last egg-wash. I sprinkled mine with some sugar for a slight glaze but you could use poppy seeds, salt, nothing…
Into the oven it goes!
Here they are post-oven. The recipe I used recommended a bake time of 30-40 minutes. I recommend watching that shit like a hawk. Remember how we made supermodel bread? Turns out supermodels don’t take as long to bake (there’s a joke in there somewhere). My bread had a lot less bulk than most standard challah loaves, and it was done in 15 minutes, easy. If I had left it in the recommended time I would have been one sad unicorn! So watch it. My recipe recommended using an instant read thermometer and removing the bread when the middle is 190, but I don’t have such fancy things in my life, so I remove it when the top feels like it has formed a nice crust, the bottom is golden brown and taping on the bread gives you that hollow sound.
When in doubt, my feeling is that slightly underbaked challah is always better than slightly overbaked challah, as that sucker gets dry FAST.
Here’s a better shot in the light of day. It’s so pretty I don’t want to eat it.
Since I was feeling both crafty and kinergarteny, I made some butter from scratch. I guess I was feeling a bit Jewish .”OY, the things I go through for you people!” whipped it with salt, vanilla, honey and cinnamon. And then I ate myself into a glorious, rainbow colored carbohydrate coma. And it was glorious.