Our Director of Culinary Operations, Suz Lehrer, has never really been a baker. Apart from the occasional celebratory chocolate chip cookie, Suz is more of a savory chef, mostly due to the flexibility that it allows. (If you bake, you’re probably well-versed with the necessity of following precise measurements, or risk ruining your entire batch of cupcakes.)
Recently, however, a friend invited Suz to a Challah baking class. And—you guessed it—the tides turned. It was so much easier than imagined: one bowl, no extra equipment, almost impossible to mess up, and sure to provide a huge sense of accomplishment, not to mention freshly baked bread to enjoy, of course.
Challah became the gateway bread for Suz, and her subsequent love of baking. It’s worth mentioning as well that making giant loaves of bread means endless opportunities for over-the-top toast. Time to buy that extra avo.
The good news: you too can become a fabulous bread baker in no time. You just need a few bowls, an apron, and a slab of salted butter. Plus, this Suz-approved recipe below:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm (but not boiling) water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup walnuts
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 standard size packet)
2 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil
In a large bowl, stir together sugar and warm water. Sprinkle over yeast, then allow to sit until yeast mixture begins to foam, 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, place walnuts in a large pan over medium heat and toast until golden, 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, roughly chop, then set aside.
Once yeast mixture is foamy, add honey, oil, and salt to bowl and stir gently to combine. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring gently just to combine before each addition. Once all of flour is incorporated, turn out dough onto a lightly-floured surface. Separate dough into 2 equal balls.
Knead each dough ball; to do this, use your palm to press firmly into the dough and then away from you, stretching the dough, and then fold it over itself in half. Continue this process, rotating the dough ball as needed, until each dough ball is smooth and elastic. If you press your finger lightly into the top of the dough, it should spring back quickly.
Transfer each dough ball to a lightly-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set doughs aside (a warm place is best in your kitchen – but DO NOT place on top of a hot stove or oven or the dough will begin to cook) and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour to 90 minutes.
Once dough has risen, transfer back to a lightly floured surface and lightly punch down dough. Sprinkle walnuts over dough balls and incorporate by kneading dough once again until the walnuts are all rolled into the dough and distributed. Return dough balls again to their oiled bowls, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise once again in a warm spot, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease 1 large or 2 smaller baking sheets with olive oil. Place dough balls, spaced apart as much as possible (don’t forget they’ll rise again in the oven!) on baking sheets. Transfer to oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake until golden, and loaves sound hollow when you knock on the bottoms, 20-25 minutes more. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then slice and eat!
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