Mrs. Myers would make this bread for my Mom every year. This always reminds me of the holidays and family. Mrs. Myers would top it off with crushed walnuts and add maraschino cherries but you can make those optional.
Yes...this is way more complicated than usual for me :-)
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (or active dry)
- 1 cup water (lukewarm)
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup Raw Honey (Buzz 10 from Medway)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup crushed walnuts
- 1 large egg yolks (reserve the white for the egg wash)
- 1/4 cup Blood Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dissolve the yeast: Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a small bowl, and add a healthy pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let stand until you see a thin frothy layer across the top. This means that the yeast is active and ready to use. (If you do not see this or if your yeast won't dissolve, it has likely expired and you'll need to purchase new yeast.)
Mix ingredients: Whisk together 4 cups of the flour, walnuts and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand).
Add the eggs, yolk, and oil: Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs, egg yolk, honey and oil. Whisk these together to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
Mix to form a shaggy dough: Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix the yeast, eggs, and flour with a long-handled spoon until you form a dough that is difficult to mix.
Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes: With a dough hook attachment, knead the dough on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.) If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.
Let the dough rise until doubled: Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place somewhere warm. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Separate the dough and roll into ropes: Separate the dough into three or six equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you'd like to do. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope roughly 1-inch thick and 16 inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and then try again.
Braid the dough: Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. If making a 3-stranded challah, braid the ropes together like braiding hair or yarn and squeeze the ends together when complete.
Let the challah rise: Line a baking sheet with parchment and lift the loaf on top. Sprinkle the loaf with a little flour and drape it with a clean dishcloth. Place the pan somewhere warm and away from drafts and let it rise until puffed and pillowy, about an hour.
Brush the challah with egg white: About 20 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 350°F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.
Bake the challah: Slide the challah on its baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. The challah is done when it is deeply browned and registers 190°F in the very middle with an instant-read thermometer.
Cool the challah: Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm. Slice and eat.