You got this.
Let’s talk a little about bread.
It can really suck.
Not eating bread, of course. That’s fantastic. Addictive. A lifestyle, really.
But baking the damn stuff. It can be so tricky to get right. It takes a lot of time and practice to get a decent loaf, and the results will never be the same as professional bakers with their proofing bowls, baguette couches, and massive, humidity-controlled ovens.
But still… to have a warm loaf in the oven, wafting the most warm and delicious smell throughout your apartment, with a flaky crust and a soft inside that butter melts into like a warm hug. It’s enough to fill any baker’s dreams.
Fear not, home baker, it can be done. There are some great yeast breads that can be made by mortals with jobs and student loans. With limited hands-on time and no fancy tools, they won’t keep you up all night turning and kneading, and are still delicious and super impressive-looking. I found this recipe on Food52, and it’s worked beautifully every single time.
Honey Challah Bread
Makes: 2 Loaves
Total time: 2-12 hours, Bake time: 20-22 minutes.
1 and ½ cups lukewarm water, divided
¼ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon divided
2 tablespoons yeast
6 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cups vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
4 eggs, plus 1 yolk for egg wash
1 tablespoon cool water, for egg wash
Put 1 cup of lukewarm water in a small bowl, sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of sugar and yeast. Leave it to proof for 5 minutes.
While the yeast is bubbling, mix together the flour, ¼ cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate smaller bowl combine the vegetable oil, honey and 4 eggs (yes, we’ve got three bowls going right now, but it’ll come together soon). Beat thoroughly to combine.
Add the bubbly yeast mixture to the flour, followed by the wet mixture. Stir to combine until the mixture just comes together and is too thick to stir.
On a floured surface, dump the mixture and begin to knead until it forms a smooth and pliable dough, about 7-10 minutes. Once it looks finished, this might be a good time to wash those bowls.
Split the dough into two equally sized balls. Place each in a greased bowl (cooking sprays work great here), and cover with cling wrap. Let ‘em rise for 2-2 and 1/2 hours, until doubled in size. If you ain’t got 2 hours to wait around, pop them in the fridge and let them rise over night.
When they’ve doubled in size (before and after photos help here), divide each into 3 pieces (you’ll have 6 total). Using the palms of your hands, roll out each into a 12-inch log. Plait three logs together tightly, then pinch and tuck the ends underneath to form one loaf. Repeat to make the second loaf.
Place the formed loaves on a cookie sheet. Optional: Make the egg wash by mixing together 1 yolk with 1 tablespoon water, and brush light over each loaf.
Cover the loaves and let rest while you preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until golden.
And voila, fluffy, golden, and dang pretty bread with minimal effort. I know, I know, there is a wait, but it’s well worth it, and while the dough rises you can sleep, or check emails, or watch a few episodes of Game of Thrones.
The best part? It freezes really well. Which means if you don’t scarf down both loaves right there and then, you can save one and pull it out next week. Just wrap in cling film after it’s cooled completely, and squirrel away in the freezer. It’ll keep for about 6 weeks.
Because of the honey and eggs, this bread is a little richer than your average grocery store loaf, and I highly recommend making French toast with it. It’ll change your life.
Post and Photo by Haley Herrinton. Recipe adapted from Food52.