We have become regular Challah bakers in our house! We love this delicious fluffy yeast bread and usually make it a few times a month, most often on Fridays so we can enjoy it Friday night and with our fellowship group on Saturday. A little over a week ago Ricky and I were doing a Facebook Live talking with folks over on the Southern Plate Facebook Page and for some reason the idea of orange challah bread popped into my head. I declared right then and there that the next day I was going to develop a recipe for it! The excitement had not waned the following day so, true to my word, I gathered my ingredients and went to work. The result is a Challah Bread that was quickly devoured and received rave reviews from all of our friends. One even declared it to be a must for every fellowship event moving forward.
The bread itself has a mild orange flavor and is no more sweet than regular Challah bread since it is essentially my original Challah Bread recipe with the addition of a little orange zest and extract. But the fresh orange glaze adds that delightful bite of sweetness and additional punch of orange flavor thanks to the added zest there. From the first bite, all of the Jordan’s have declared this to be our very favorite Challah! I hope you’ll give it a try soon! Challah bread is easier to make than you may realize, even if you do everything be hand like we do!
There are a few secrets to successful Challah bread for me and I want to share those in hopes to helping you have success as well:
- Temperature of water is very important when dealing with yeast. If your water is too hot, the yeast will die, if the water is too cold, the yeast will be reluctant to become active. Think “baby bath water” because that is the perfect temperature. It should be comfortably warm but not hot.
- To me, the brand of yeast absolutely does matter. This is in no way sponsored by any brand but I just want to tell you that I will not buy any yeast but Red Star. Other brands have always been a 50/50 success/fail rate at best for me but Red Star has never let me down. I buy it in a little jar and keep it in my freezer for extra freshness. If you’ve ever tried to make yeast bread and had a complete fail in the past, chances are pretty high your yeast was to blame so I am absolutely loyal to a brand here. If you find one that works as well for you, I suggest you stick with it. 🙂
- Kneading enough is essential. This is where Southerners and others used to making biscuits tend to fall short because we know that over kneading biscuits yields hockey pucks so we tend to stay on the gentle side in making yeast breads, too. However, the principle is the opposite in yeast breads. The more you knead a yeast bread, the softer and fluffier it will be because it helps develop the gluten which forms the bonds that create that soft, chewy texture. Pay close attention to the amount of minutes I knead the dough in this recipe – because I do. I set a timer and I don’t stop kneading until that timer goes off.
Orange Challah Bread is not difficult to make, it just takes about 15 minutes to get it going (making dough and first kneading), then you wait for it to rise, then about ten minutes or so to knead again and shape it, then wait again, then bake. I incorporate making this bread into my afternoon work whenever we need it, generally on Thursdays or Fridays so that we can have it for our special Friday night supper.
If you’d like to see my original Challah Bread recipe, click here. While I dearly love that for an all around light and fluffy Challah, I’m afraid it has been dethroned by this orange version – at least for now.
- 2.5 cups warm water*
- 1 tablespoon rapid rise yeast I will only use Red Star brand
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons orange extract 1 1/2 tsp for dough, 1/2 tsp for glaze (I just found this at WalMart, it's pretty common)
- 4 tablespoons kosher olive oil I use Pompeian brand
- 1 tablespoon of kosher or sea salt
- 7 cups bread flour I use Pilsbury, with an addition 1-2 cups for kneading
- For wash: 1 egg and two tablespoons water
- 2 medium oranges (I used naval, whatever you have is fine)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla for glaze
- Place warm water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast over top. Stir and allow to sit for five minutes. After five minutes, if there are bubbles on top proceed with recipe. If there are no bubbles, wait until you can purchase new yeast.
- Zest one orange. Add that zest to the yeast mixture along with: Honey, Oil, Eggs, 1.5 teaspoons Orange Extract, and Salt. Stir with a whisk until well combined. Add in 4 cups of flour and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until mixed in.
- Add remaining three cups of flour and stir until flour is incorporated and dough is stiff.
- Sprinkle a clean surface with one cup of flour. Turn dough out onto this and sprinkle more flour on top. Knead with both hands for ten minutes, adding more flour to spots that become too sticky to knead. After ten minutes, place in bowl and cover with clean cloth. Allow to rise for 1.5 hours.
- Punch down dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle a little more flour over the top and knead dough for about five minutes.
- Separate dough into two portions and then separate each portion into three smaller portions (this is for a three strand braid). Roll each portion into a rope. It doesn't matter how long the rope as long as you make sure each of the ropes are about the same size. Mine usually end up being 12-15 inches.
- Pinch three ropes together at one end and then braid them, pinching together at the other end when done. Fold the ends under the loaf to hide them, leaving a pretty braided dough. Place this carefully onto a greased baking sheet and repeat with the other loaf.
- Spray the loaves lightly with cooking spray (preferably kosher olive oil) and cover loosely with cling wrap or waxed paper. Then, cover all of this with a towel. Set aside and allow to rise for about an hour.
- Preheat oven to 375. In a small bowl beat egg and water together. Uncover risen bread and brush with egg wash. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush crevices on top of bread with egg wash again. Return to oven and bake for 20-25 more minutes, or until bread is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool completely.
- Zest remaining orange and then juice both oranges. Place this juice and zest in a small bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in enough confectioner's sugar to make a glaze the concistence of school glue, this will be anywhere from 1/2 - 1 cup depending on the amount of juice in your oranges. If glaze is too thin, add more confectioner's sugar or allow to sit for a few minutes to thicken.
- Brush over cooled loaves of Orange Challah and let dry completely before storing Challah in airtight container until ready to eat.