What’s rich and brown, shiny and sleek, and smells like Vermont at sugaring time? The answer is Maple Challah, aka “the end of dieting as we know it”. Once this heady fragrance wafts out of your oven, all good intentions will be put aside and you’ll be a gonner!
I used maple syrup to sweeten the dough, but it doesn’t give enough maple “kick”, so I turned to my trusty Mapleine. Maple flavoring, maple extract, it’s all good! And, in case you’re wondering, I found kosher maple flavoring and refined coconut oil on the internet.
Whether you make a simple three-strand braid or go all out for the six-strand braid, this bread won’t fail to impress; it’s gorgeous even if you try desperately to follow instructions and still come up with a wonky braid!
I tried a six-strand braid. Several times. I had no trouble with four strands (see my Pumpkin Challah ) but apparently, that was pushing the limit of my braiding skills. I hate videos, but this is one time I probably should have watched a tutorial. In the end, I did the best I could, tucked the less than attractive ends under, and hoped that a good, puffy rise and a lot of egg yolk would cover my worst messes. It wouldn’t pass the test of experienced challah bakers, but it worked for me.
Because I can never get enough maple flavor, I sprinkled the top of one of the loaves with maple sugar which gave a slightly burnt-sugar flavor and made the crust a tiny bit crunchy. I loved it, though it takes away the pretty shine. It’s totally optional, of course, but mmmmmm. Here’s what the sugar-topped loaf looks like next to one with a traditional egg yolk wash:
Remember that challah dough is rich and will take a little longer to rise than a basic sandwich bread. Make it when you’ll be home all day so you don’t try to rush it. Ninety-minute rise times are to be expected. You don’t have to sit and watch it – just set a timer and go about your business, and before you know it you’ll be tearing off a tender piece of maple goodness.
|Maple Raisin Challah
- ½ cup hot water
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ¾ cup warm water
- pinch sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
- ⅓ cup refined coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild-flavored cooking oil)
- 1 tablespoon maple flavoring - or to taste
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Combine hot water and raisins in a small bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes to plump raisins. Stir in maple syrup.
- In a small bowl or cup combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow it to sit until yeast is foamy.
- In a large bowl, (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, the raisin mixture, and the yeast mixture.
- Add flour and salt. Mix well. Allow mixer to knead dough for 5-6 minutes. (If mixing by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes.The Dough should be soft and slightly tacky. If it's too sticky, add a little more flour.
- Place dough in a greased bowl. Turn to coat the dough, cover with a dish towel, and allow it to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
- For one large 3-strand braid, divide dough into 3 equal parts. (For 2 small braids, divide into 6 equal parts.) Braid loosely and tuck ends under. Place on parchment covered baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Allow bread to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.
I haven’t tried it (yet), but I’ll bet this recipe would be great for rolls, too. I think I’ll add them to my Thanksgiving plan. And I may try mixing maple syrup with that egg yolk before brushing it on the bread. If you beat me to it, let me know how that works!