Have you ever visited a bakery and seen those long beautiful braided breads and wondered, what are those lovely golden brown loaves? I used to work at a European bakery called Boniere in high school and the pastry chef used to bake these aromatic challah loaves each morning and place them on the bread rack in the front of the store for display.
These delicious milk, butter and egg based breads were especially popular with customers during the spring time for Easter and the winter for Hanukkah. These yeast-leavened breads are tender with a hint of sweetness and are simple to make!
Challah bread dough is easy to work with allowing you to create any shape you desire. I like the traditional braided style, topped with sesame or poppy seeds if I have them on hand. Challah bread is best eaten fresh, however it’s perfect a few days after sliced for toast and fruit jam, lemon curd or just plain butter.
One of my favorite uses of day old challah bread is making French toast! Cutting thick slices of the bread and then dipping it into a spiced custard batter is divine! The bread is denser than store bought regular French or white bread, so it is much sturdier for dipping into liquid which gives a nice crisp outside and tender inside once fried in a hot pan.
I created a strawberry French toast recipe stuffed with fresh berries and cream cheese filling with this challah bread and it was my favorite recipe so far! For the most delicious flavor, serve this challah bread fresh and warm the same day to your eager eaters, it will be a surprise if you have one crumb left!
TIP – How does the challah bread achieve such a beautiful golden brown color and taste? Adding egg wash to the bread right before baking and Maillard browning of the bread dough as it cooks are two secrets behind the gorgeous appearance. As the proteins and sugars in the egg and bread dough cook, Maillard browning reaction occurs. The reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid (lysine in the flour and egg) and reducing sugar (like glucose), usually requiring the addition of heat (temperatures above 285°F). This process that occurs during baking will give you the characteristic baked bread aroma, flavor, and color. It’s quite a delicious reaction if you ask me!