Pumpkin Challah

IMG_1326I have a habit of coming across recipes that I think sound interesting, printing them off the internet or marking the page(s) in the cookbook, and then never returning. Am I the only one guilty of this heinous neglect? I try not to let it bother me, I suppose. I prefer to think of these forgotten recipes as unexplored potential rather than wasted opportunities!

Sometimes, though, I consciously avoid the recipe because I came across it when I was feeling particularly ambitious — homemade bagels comes to mind — and then I’m later sobered by reality. Before you get delicious visions of a kitchen filled with the aroma of fresh bagels like I did, try to imagine the entire scenario: a slightly sticky yeast dough that eventually has to be shaped, parboiled, and then baked before you can sink your teeth into a bagel. Admittedly, the effort required is not so much out of the question. For me, it’s the other side of that — the side when you do sink your teeth into your first homemade bagel. Chances are, it’s then that you realize you’ll now have to compare all other bagels to this experience. Eventually, you’ll feel ashamed of yourself for how seldom you take the time to make homemade bagels. (slamming book closed) Yeah, I’ll skip that guilt! Maybe one day, though!

Jarrahdale PureePumpkin Challah was one of those recipes, for me. I came across it, fell in love with the idea, and then never fully got up the nerve to go for it — afraid of being a failure or perhaps afraid of being a success, I suppose. Recently, with the small army of pumpkins that entered our lives, I was faced with what can only be described as a surplus of pumpkin (to put it mildly). To combat this surplus, I’ve been digging through all of my sources — both the new ones and the neglected ones — trying to find inspiring uses for all this pumpkin goodness.

The story of challah bread comes from the long and diverse history of Jewish people. It was originally intended to commemorate the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites were wandering in the desert for forty years after their exodus from Egypt. Over time, Jewish communities from all over the world have put their own little unique touches on the classic recipe: adding seeds, different flours, spices, etc.

Essentially, challah is an egg bread — a dough that’s enriched with egg yolks, giving it a texture you’ll soon come to crave. Today’s recipe is a Martha Stewart version that puts an autumnal spin on the traditional egg bread — adding pumpkin purée and spices. The addition adds a golden color and just enough of a hint of spice to keep you IMG_1322guessing. The bread is not sweet — you could use it for just about any kind of sandwich you could think of, the pumpkin and spices would only enhance the flavors. Challah bread is most famously good for french toast and bread pudding recipes, however — the texture of the bread melding into something that ordinary bread cannot duplicate! Here I should note that challah bread differs from brioche (another form of egg bread) because challah contains no dairy, making it essentially kosher.

If you’ve never made bread before, this may not be the best recipe to test your skills on. The dough it produces is heavy and tacky in texture and can be tricky if you’re not comfortable kneading dough. As I mentioned in a previous post, the trick to kneading is adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to you or the work surface. With a heavy dough such as this, the tendency to add too much flour is that much greater. However, if you keep those few tips in mind, you should be fine even as a complete novice.

As with any recipe that I find on the internet, I enjoy reading the user comments at the bottom of the page. Sometimes this determines whether or not I’ll make the recipe — or whether or not I’ll make changes. Many people said the bread was great. Predictably, a few protested that it called for more or less flour than what was needed (Sigh… this is a hallmark of baking bread, folks! Flour measurements in bread-making are approximate!) I got a big chuckle from one surprised user who remarked, “11-12 eggs?! Is that a typo?!!” Nope! Challah is an egg bread… it contains… EGGS.

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This recipe makes two loaves which can be sliced into 18 sandwich slices per loaf. While 11 egg yolks seems like a heart attack waiting to happen — and surely would be if you poured them directly down your gullet — 11 egg yolks divided by 36 slices is quite another matter altogether! According to my cookbook software, a slice of this bread has: 133 calories, 1g saturated fat, and 68mg cholesterol; it’s hardly going to break the nutritional bank. Perspective, people! Eggs aren’t evil! No one said you had to eat the whole loaf!

Pumpkin Challah
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 2 loaves (36 slices)

    2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    1 cup warm water (100-110-degrees)
    3/4 cup egg yolks (11 to 12 large eggs)
    1 tablespoon salt
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1/4 cup honey
    2 cups pumpkin puree (or one 15-ounce can)
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    8 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)
    1 large egg yolk

    In a small bowl, combine the yeast and 1/2 cup warm water, stirring to dissolve yeast. Place the mixture in a warm, draft-free area for 7-10 minutes or until foamy.

    Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the salt, canola oil, honey, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice.

In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, and remaining warm water; whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the pumpkin mixture, stirring until combined; add the proofed yeast and mix thoroughly.

    Adding flour 1 cup at a time, stir until a soft dough is formed and the dough ball begins to come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Flour the work space with remaining or additional flour; knead dough for 10 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn dough to coat with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size (about 1 hour).

    Once dough has doubled, punch it down and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal portions. Shape into two loaves of any shape you wish. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

    Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350-degrees. Mix remaining egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Carefully brush the loaves with the egg glaze (you will likely have more glaze than what you’ll need). Bake at 350-degrees for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

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In case you were curious, when you separate the whites from the yolks of 11-12 eggs, you have a lot of choices for what to do with those pesky whites (a little over 2 cups of egg whites). We enjoyed making wee egg white omelets and serving them atop a toasted slice of pumpkin challah with a drizzle of our favorite salsa. But, there’s always the opportunity to make meringue cookies or macaroons if you’re feeling inspired.

As for this bread, the possibilities are endless. It freezes well (wrap it securely in plastic wrap, then in foil) for up to 3 months. You can: make incredible french toast; use it in any recipe you have for bread pudding; make delectable grilled cheese or other sandwiches; use it in your upcoming Thanksgiving stuffing… need I go on? Here’s my recipe for french toast using this bread:

Pumpkin Challah French Toast
A Tales of Thyme & Place Original
Serves 6

    3/4 cup 1% reduced-fat milk
    1/4 cup maple syrup (Grade B, if available)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    3 large eggs – lightly beaten
    Cooking spray
    12 slices pumpkin challah

    In a shallow dish, combine the milk, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and eggs.

    Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Place bread slices into milk mixture, quickly turning to coat both sides. Remove bread slices from milk mixture.

    Add bread slices to preheated pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Keep toasted slices warm in a 200-degree oven on a baking sheet while you prepare the remaining bread slices. Serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar, maple sugar, or a light drizzling of your favorite pancake syrup. (Approximate nutrition facts [2 slices]: 347 calories, 6g total fat (3g saturated, 3g Monounsaturated, 2g Polyunsaturated), 230mg cholesterol, 2g fiber, 532mg sodium)

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In the end, trying a new recipe that expands your horizons — be it your skill level or your taste buds — is often worth it. You can never be sure you’ll like it until you try it. Sometimes, you might even start a new tradition!

(For this recipe, I chose to make two 3-rope braided loaves — one I baked free-form on a baking sheet and the other I placed in a loaf pan. Challah is traditionally braided, but you can shape the dough into any shape loaf you wish or even turn it into rolls.)

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~ by Jason on October 5, 2010.

6 Responses to “Pumpkin Challah”

  1. Ok…I hope James won’t be jealous, and I know we are already married…but will you marry me?! Or can you just give my husband some tips on making his lovely wife pumpkin challah?!

    • LOL 😀 I’m sure that Vince could make this bread without any problem. His pizza crust, that time, was great.

      • Actually, he was baking pretty often for us, making homemade english muffins, cinnamon raisin bread, and honey oatmeal bread. Then he started a phD program….and it all stopped. Somehow studying became more important than baking. This I do not understand! 🙂

  2. […] Pumpkin Challah « Tales of Thyme & Place […]

  3. […] Pumpkin Challah « Tales of Thyme & Place […]

  4. […] Pumpkin Challah « Tales of Thyme & Place Cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350-degrees. Mix remaining egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Carefully brush the loaves with the egg glaze (you will likely . We enjoyed making wee egg white omelets and serving them atop a toasted slice of pumpkin challah with a drizzle of our favorite salsa But, there's always the opportunity to make meringue cookies or macaroons if you're feeling inspired. […]

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