How do you get the best bread on your table? My usual view is to buy it from the best baker.. Bread is one of those things that takes loads of effort, for what often works out as minimal reward because home-baked bread can turn out heavier than Eric Pickles and almost as indigestible.
But a friend was raving about Evelyn Rose's recipe of homemade Challah, a sweet plaited Jewish bread. She said it was easy, impressed guests, didn't take too long... So I thought I'd try it. And all those things were right - the texture of this bread comes out perfectly, and the egg white glaze gives it a great shine. Challah makes a great showstopper for the centre of a table, and tastes delicious dunked into soup or loaded with humous, peanut butter, smoked salmon - anything you like.
Is this challah as good as your favourite bakery's serving? The jury is out ... Try it and let me know.
Ingredients (makes one challah, serves 6+, from Evelyn Rose's International Cookbook)
150ml warm water
340 g strong white bread flour
1 sachet easy instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 teaspoon water
sesame seeds or poppy seeds
Mix all the ingredients, in a bread machine or mixer with a dough hook if you have, or the good old fashioned hard work and wooden spoon way.
You need to mix until it forms a sticky ball, then knead for five minutes until the dough slaps the side of the bowl without sticking. If it's still sticky, add a tablespoon more flour - or if too dry, add water a teaspoon at a time.
Then knead on a floured board, and put the ball of dough into a greased plastic bag (or just back in its mixing bowl but covered in the oil, with clingfilm on top).
Wait for the dough to double in size - I left it overnight but can take only four hours).
Then divide the dough into three on a floured board, knead each one for a minute or two, and plait (easy guide and how-to for three, four or show-off five strands here) - remember to make each end tapered.
Once you have your plaited loaf, brush it generously with the glaze mixture, and bake at 200 degrees C for 25-30 minutes.