I've made no secret of my love for challah bread. I first declared it passionately two Thanksgivings ago with my Pumpkin Spice Challah recipe, and then followed it up a few weeks later with an elegant Vanilla Bean & Honey twist on the original. Then last year I went on an international quest to bring you Bamboo Charcoal Challah.
Today, I've got another fun version: Chipotle Challah!
Unlike traditional challah, which tends to be quite sweet, this bread has a third less sugar so that the focus is really on the smoky and spicy flavors of the chipotle and smoked paprika. I wanted to make sure that heat really came through without being overwhelming so that it can be paired with various meats and cheeses as a sandwich. I think you'll be surprised by how much flavor is in its soft and buttery crumb.
I enjoyed it alone spread with a generous bit of good salted butter, but I'm already looking forward to a spicy grilled cheese sandwich filled with melted cheddar, tomato, and maybe even a crumble or two of crisped bacon. Yum! This would also be a perfect base for a savory French toast or to serve with a bowl of hearty chili.
The recipe for this challah comes together easily just like the traditional kind, with only the slight addition of pureed chipotles in adobo sauce and a bit of smoked paprika. Once baked, the bread comes out of the oven with a golden terracotta hue and the tiniest flecks of chiles scattered throughout. It's a beautiful bread, and one that will definitely be a favorite for those of you appreciate a little heat in your dishes.
Chipotle Challah Bread
7g active dry yeast (1 envelope)
4-5 cups white bread flour
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
2/3 cup warm water
¼ cup olive oil
2 large eggs beaten + 1 egg yolk for egg wash
1/3 cup chipotles in adobo sauce, pureed (about half a traditional sized can)
1 tablespoon smoked spanish paprika
1 teaspoon salt
Mix the yeast with 2/3 cup of the flour, the sugar, and the warm water. Whisk gently until well combined and leave in a warm (but not hot) spot to proof. In about 10-15 minutes, the mixture will look foamy and somewhat alive.
Pour this into the bowl of your electric mixer with the dough hook in place. Add the olive oil and eggs, and beat until well incorporated (about 1 minute). Add the chipotle/adobo puree and the smoked paprika, mix until combined. Add the salt and the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Depending on a variety of factors, your dough might require a bit more flour than listed above. Add this ¼ cup at a time until the dough is springy, but not sticky. Knead with the hook (or remove to a floured surface and knead by hand) for about 5-10 minutes.
Roll the flour into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn the dough once to grease the top then cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and leave in a warm spot to rise. I like to place it inside my (turned off) oven. (The heat from the pilot is just perfect to keep it going.) Let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour to 1 hour and a half).
Poke the dough down (no need to actually “punch” it) and reshaped into a ball. Grease the bowl once again, turn, cover and repeat the rising process for about another hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half. This will make two nicely sized loaves. Set one half aside and place the other half in front of you. Use a pastry cutter to split into six evenly sized pieces. Roll each of these pieces into a rope-like shape, making sure to taper the ends. Should be about 8-12 inches long.
Line the six ropes vertically in front of you and pinch all the ends together so you have what looks like a sea creature with six tentacles. Starting with the piece all the way to the right, pull it over the next two pieces, then under the third, and over the last two. Repeat this with each piece at the right until you can no longer continue braiding. It helps to chant to yourself “Over two, under one , over two.”
Pinch the ends and tuck under. Repeat with the second half of dough.
Prepare a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones) by lining with a sheet of parchment paper. Place the two loaves on the sheet allowing enough room on each side for them to rise. If necessary, use two baking sheets.
Beat one egg yolk with a tablespoon of olive oil and use a pastry brush to gently (gently!) brush over the braid. This will give it that lovely shine once baked. Top loosely with oiled or sprayed plastic wrap and let proof (rise) again for about 40 minutes or until doubled. About half-way through this rise, you might want to start preheating your oven to 350 degrees (but be sure to remove the braids first if you’re letting them rise in there!!)
Once risen, brush with another coat of egg wash. (Be sure to be even more gentle now as the braids are very delicate right now.) Bake in the 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes or until golden on top. To test for doneness, turn one of the loaves over and tap the bottom; if it sounds hollow, it's ready!
Let cool on wire racks before serving.