Bread glorious bread. Sometimes a slice of bread smeared with butter is the perfect treat. Its a staple I couldn’t live without, but isn’t one I’ve ever felt that confident in baking myself! I am always looking to improve though and as I saw they were making a plaited loaf in the trailer for tomorrow’s GBBO I decided to give it a whirl and made a cholla loaf.
I think my problem with bread making, is all in the rising. I don’t think my bread has ever reached the lofty heights that you see in cookbooks and TV, but I was pleasantly surprised with my cholla loaf. It rose enough to make an actual loaf! A loaf!! I honestly was so pleased. I thought I might have to present you with a sorry excuse for bread, or no post at all! But actually, this little cholla loaf ain’t too bad.
The dough is quite rich with two eggs, butter and warmed milk! But its a surprisingly light texture once baked. It has a gorgeous brown crust, courtesy of a good egg wash, that isn’t too hard or too soft. Just perfect for dipping into soup or in the morning with a cup of coffee.
The dough needs two proves, one initial prove in an oiled bowl and then the second once its in the plaited shape. I found I had to knead the dough for about 10 minutes to get to a smooth and silky texture, but I’m so glad I did. It’s so worth it when you cut that first slice!
A cholla loaf is a traditional Jewish braided bread eaten on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. There are so many different variations of the bread and some have like 8 plaits! My three plait loaf pales in comparison to them, but you’ve got to start somewhere right?
The plaiting isn’t actually too tricky once you get the hang of it, I did re-do mine once but after that it wasn’t too bad. Just make sure you roll the sausages of dough out really long, as they somehow seem to shrink the more you plait!
Two final tips, don’t overheat your milk as it’ll kill the yeast and let it prove for as long as it needs. Other than that, go forth and make cholla!
500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
25g caster sugar
10g instant yeast
30g unsalted butter, softened
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten (two together, one separate for glazing)
50ml warm milk
180ml cool water
Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt and sugar on one side, and the yeast on the other. Add the butter, the 2 beaten eggs and the milk, then half the water. Turn the mixture round with your fingers, as if you were a hand mixer. Continue to add the water, a little at a time, until all the flour is incorporated. You may not need to use all the water, or you may need to add a little more - your dough needs to be soft but not soggy. Keep mixing the dough until it forms a rough dough.
Lightly flour the work surface, tip the dough onto it and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 5-10 minutes until the dough forms a soft, smooth skin. You will need to work through the initial wet stage, so keep going but don't overdo it on the additional flour.
Once the dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave it to rise in a warm place until at least doubled in size, this will take at least 1 hour, but can be left for 2 or 3.
Lay a sheet of baking paper on a large flat baking tray.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and fold inwards until all the air is knocked out and the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll into sausages about 30cm long.
Join the three pieces together at one end ready to plait the strands. Start with the outer piece on the right and lift it over the middle piece, then lift the piece on the left over the middle, then the right over the middle and left over the middle. Repeat this sequence until you reach the end. Tuck the ends underneath to neaten. Lift the plaited dough onto the prepared baking tray and brush all over with the remaining beaten egg.
Put the tray inside a clean plastic, making sure the bag doesn't touch the dough. Leave to prove for about 1 hour, or until the dough is at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 200C/180C Fan.
Bake the loaf for 20-25 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base. The loaf will colour quickly due to the egg wash, so keep an eye on it. Leave to cool on a wire rack.