Sometimes I have really productive Sundays. This has not been one of those days. It’s been a really lazy Sunday, which allowed me plenty of time to make homemade bread. As much as I love sweet desserts, I think I’m just as fond of fresh bread. I am continually amazed by what can be created with a little yeast and some flour!

This was a recipe from Cooking Light that caught my eye yesterday. I’ve seen a few challah recipes on other food blogs and I’ve always loved how pretty the braided loaf looked. This recipe was also the first time I’ve made bread without the use of my stand mixer. It was actually really easy, though it did make quite a mess in my kitchen with all of the flour on the counters. The bread made my entire house smell wonderful as it baked and it came out of the oven golden and beautiful! We have already tried a piece and it’s delicious but I must confess…I fully intend to use this bread as the vehicle for french toast or a french toast casserole :)

Sweet Challah
from Cooking Light

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (100 to 110 F)
3 tablespoons honey
Dash of saffron threads, crushed
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour (about 14 1/4 ounces), divided
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon water
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds (I omitted)

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large bowl; stir in honey and saffron threads. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and egg; stir well with a whisk.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour to yeast mixture, and stir until a soft dough forms. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 F), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

Punch dough down. Shape dough into a ball; return to bowl. Cover and let rise an additional 40 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), on a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 25-inch rope with slightly tapered ends. Place ropes lengthwise on a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal; pinch ends together at untapered ends to seal. Braid ropes; pinch loose ends to seal. Cover and let rise 20 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Combine 1 teaspoon water and large egg yolk, stirring with a fork until blended. Uncover loaf, and gently brush with egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.