Sweet Vanilla Challah

From the Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger
Submitted by Lori

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon yeast (instant or active dry)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
6 1/2 to 7 cups of flour
1 3/4 cups hot water (120 F)
4 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

The glaze ingredients include:

1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar, salt and 2 cups of the flour; mix by hand or by mixer.
  2. Add the hot water, eggs, oil, and vanilla.  Beat hard until smooth.  Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time.  Continue beating until the dough is too stiff to stir.
  3. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and springy and a layer of blisters shows under the skin, about 4 minutes.  The dough needs to be slightly firm for free-form loaves.
  4. Place the dough in a greased deep container.  Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Grease or parchment-line 1 or 2 baking sheets.  [Lori: I placed each bread on its own parchment, on one large baking sheet. That way I could adjust/move the loaves if they started to stick together.]
  6. Gently deflate the dough.  Turn the dough onto a lightly-floured surface.  Divide the dough in 2 equal portions.  Roll each portion out into a smooth, thick strip about 30 inches long, with one end 2-3 inches wider than the other.  (Picture a shorter, thicker billiard cue stick.)  [Note from Lori:  I had some trouble here – my coil expanded and toppled.  After several trials, I made a shorter, fatter rope and got more attractive results. ]   With the wide end on the work surface, lift the tapered end and wind the rest of the dough around the thick end 2 or 3 times, forming a compact coil. Pinch the thin end to the body of the coil and tuck it under.  Place the coils, with the swirl pattern facing up, on the baking sheet(s).  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until nearly doubled in bulk, about 30-40 minutes.  Because of the eggs, this loaf does not need to double completely; it will rise enough in the oven.
  7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F.  To make the vanilla egg glaze, whisk together the egg yolk, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl.  Beat until well blended.  Gently brush the dough surfaces with a thick layer of the glaze.
  8. Place the baking sheet(s) on a rack in the center of the oven and bake 40-45 minutes, or until a deep, golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your finger.  [Lori: My oven runs a little hotter – I started watching around 30 minutes.  By 40 minutes the bottom burned.]  Carefully lift the turbans off the baking sheet(s) with a spatula and transfer to cooling racks.  Cool completely before slicing.
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