So I've never made bread before.  

When I say bread, I mean bread that starts out as yeast, is mixed with sugar and flour and warm water and kneaded.  I've made plenty of Banana bread, but that doesn't count.  Challah is fairly ambitious to make as my first bread, but it turned out surprisingly well.  
Aren't they pretty?   One has poppy seeds on the outside, and one is without.  Making this bread is a very long and tedious task, but it is oh so worth it.  It's soft and moist and makes fantastic french toast!  (a post on that coming soon...).  I think it took me about 3 1/2 hours total to make these two loaves.  This includes rising times, so it was not all of me doing something constantly. 

Now, this yeast stuff.  As one of my nursing friends and fellow food blogger, Lane, once said, "It's like this sneaky magic thing that's alive and grows and completely eludes me."  Yeah. well it kind of freaks me out as well.  When mixed with warm water and sugar (honey, actually) it comes alive and smells like beer!  So after I woke up these little guys, I added some oil and eggs to it...
It looked very strange. and frothy. and gross.  But I went with it anyway. So then comes the flour.  5 cups, 1 cup at a time, being sure to mix in between each cup.  This is only the first of the tedious tasks.  Then comes the kneading.   then comes the waiting. and the kneading.  Kneading for 10 mins straight goes by quite slow.  As you might can see, my ipod kept me company.  After the kneading is more rising. then a little more kneading.  Then some more rising.  Goodness.  This yeast stuff is a pretty cool, but they are quite slow.  

So the braiding.

My favorite part.  Aside from the eating, of course.

I did two types of braid...a typical hair braid and an "under 2, over 1" braid.  (which could definitely use some more practice!) and yet some more rising. surprise surprise.  They are suppose to rise in a warm, draft-free place, and since our upstairs is much warmer than our downstairs, (and also since we have mischievous cats), I put the bread on our closet shelf upstairs.  Every time I would go back up and come down with bread, Jeremy and Ashley (our summer roommate) kept laughing at me, as if I had a secret bakery upstairs or something.  

Into the oven and...

deliciousness ensues.

Challah Bread
From Allrecipes

1/3 cup honey
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup olive oil
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup milk
2 T olive oil
1 egg white
1 T sugar

  1. Turn it out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in the bowl, turn the dough over a few times to oil the surface, then let rise until doubled in a warm, draft-free place, about 90 minutes.
  2. To make the loaves, punch down the dough, and cut it into 2 equal-sized pieces. Cut the first piece into 4 equal parts. Set the second piece aside under a cloth to prevent drying out while you braid the first loaf.
  3. To braid the first 4-strand loaf, roll the 4 pieces of dough into thin ropes about the width of your thumb, and about 14 inches long. Make the tops and bottoms of each rope thinner than the middle area. Pinch the tops of the 4 ropes together, and fan the 4 ropes out so they don't touch.
  4. To make an "under-2, over-1 braid," take the left-most rope, and move it to the right to cross underneath the next 2 ropes, then move it left to cross back over the strand immediately to its left. Take the far right strand, and move it to the left and cross it under the two strands to its left (they are already crossed from the previous braid); then move it right to cross back over the strand immediately to its right. Repeat until the 4 strands are braided together all the way to the end, and pinch the ends tightly together. Repeat the steps to braid the second loaf, and let the braided loaves rise for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Make a glaze by whisking together the milk, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the egg white, and the sugar in a bowl. Brush the braided loaves with the glaze, to make a shiny crust, and bake the loaves on the prepared baking sheets in the preheated oven until they are light golden brown, about 30 minutes.

That's it! Have fun!

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