Orange Honey Challah Bread
This post is sponsored by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas.
Baking has always been one of my go-to stress management strategies, but now more than ever, I’ve found myself really leaning into the practice of bread making. My most recent endeavor – learning how to knead dough and make challah. Both have been equally cathartic. Sure, you *could* use a stand mixer… but the mindful experience of kneading dough is truly grounding and comforting to me. I even did a little research to find out there is actual evidence that supports baking as a method for stress and anxiety reduction – that means this recipe is evidence-based right?
KNEADless to say, I am so excited to share what I’ve learned from my recent partnership with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas through this fun challah recipe. I used Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract and Pure Orange Extract to give it a nice cozy flavor with a hint of sweetness, and BetterYourBake.com to learn how to knead the dough using the “stretch and fold” technique (they even provide a video for us visual learners). How’s that for some sweet, sweet stress management?
I’ll admit, it was a little challenging to find the instant yeast required to make this recipe, however I got lucky when on a visit to a local bakery – be sure to check your local bakeries if you’re having trouble getting your hands on yeast.
Once you’ve gotten your yeast, you’re ready to bake! Make sure to begin by mixing your yeast with *warm*, not hot water, and give it the appropriate time to sit and get nice and bubbly and frothy with the sugar (about 10 minutes). Then, mix in the aquafaba and vegetable oil slowly- you want to whisk it well and make sure everything is fully incorporated. You’ll follow this same, slow, process for the remaining ingredients and the flour – one cup at a time. It’s much easier to add extra flour if your dough is a little too sticky, but it’s much more challenging to course correct if you accidentally add too much flour.
After your dough is mixed, you’re ready to knead. Kneading is by far my favorite part of the process. It’s a very intentional process, yet so meditative at the same time. As mentioned, I used the “stretch and fold” technique that I learned from Nielsen-Massey’s Better Your Bake campaign. Here’s the low down.
1. Remove the dough from the bowl with a scraper and place it on a clean, dry countertop. Do not flour the countertop first.
2. Use one hand to hold down the side of the dough closest to you.
3. With the other hand, grab the other half of the dough and stretch it away from you.
4. Fold the dough toward you back on top of itself and rotate 90°.
5. Repeat for 10-15 minutes, rotating the same direction each time, until dough is smooth and fully kneaded.
Also, here are a few pro tips I’ve learned from Neilsen-Massey’s Better Your Bake tips and tutorials:
- If your dough feels tight while kneading, let it rest for several minutes before continuing to knead
- Be PATIENT! it might take 10 – 15 minutes to fully knead your bread
- Use the “window pane test” to see if your dough is fully kneaded – take a golf ball-sized portion of the dough and gently stretch it apart. If the dough is properly kneaded, it will be elastic and form a thin membrane that you can see light through. If it is not fully kneaded, or over-kneaded, the dough will break apart.
- You can find more instructions and tips about kneading dough here
- Have the step by step “How To Knead Dough” video up while you’re kneading your dough, and use it as a model
After you’ve kneaded your dough, place it in a lightly greased bowl (big enough so the dough has room to grow), cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place for 2 hours – I generally set mine near the fireplace & turn it on. Don’t forget to set a timer! I’ve definitely lost track of time before, it’s salvageable – but for best results, keep an eye on the time.
Next, after two hours, gently remove your dough from the bowl and place onto an unfloured surface. Divide the dough evenly into the number of strands you will be using (I used 4), and roll the dough into strands of even length. Braid the strands into your desired braid and gently move the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. *I used this video to learn how to braid a 4-strand circular loaf.
For the wash, I made an egg-free wash using aquafaba and honey (you could also use maple syrup to keep this recipe completely vegan). Aquafaba is the liquid that you find in a can of chickpeas. For WAY too long I just poured it out after draining my chickpeas, but it actually makes a great vegan substitute for eggs. You’ll mix the 3 remaining tablespoons of aquafaba and 1 remaining tablespoon of honey. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the dough with the wash, be sure to save enough to repeat this process before placing the dough in the oven.
Lightly cover the dough with plastic wrap and a towel, and let it sit for another hour in a warm place. Meanwhile, you can preheat the oven to 375F. Once an hour has passed, remove the plastic wrap and towel, brush the dough evenly with more of the wash, and bake for 15 minutes.
Rotate the baking sheet (you want the dough to get evenly golden brown), and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire cooling rack before slicing (I know, it’s hard).
There’s something so nostalgic about making and enjoying challah on a Friday evening, and my cravings for comfort food, and a sense of normalcy are REAL right now…thankfully making and enjoying this recipe satisfies both. The Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract has a sweet, creamy flavor, while the Pure Orange Extract gives it a little zest. “Challah and chill” has quickly become my Friday afternoon routine during quarantine, and I hope you’ll find as much comfort in this recipe as I do.
Orange Honey Challah
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp instant yeast
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 5 tbsp aquafaba* for dough
- 3 tbsp aquafaba for wash
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup honey for dough
- 1 tbsp honey for wash
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp Neilsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
- 2 tsp Nielsen Massey Pure Orange Extract
- Zest of 1/2 an orange
- 3 cups flour
- In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles.
- Slowly whisk in aquafaba and vegetable oil.
- Whisk in honey, salt, Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, Nielsen-Massey Pure Orange Extract, and orange zest.
- Stir in 1 cup of flour at a time.
- Knead the dough using the stretch and fold technique* for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot for 2 hours, or until it has about doubled in size.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, roll each piece into a strand of equal lenght (approx 12 inches), and braid using a 4-strand round braid. *see notes
- Placed braided loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Mix aquafaba and honey for the wash; use a pastry brush to lightly brush the dough with the wash (save some, as you will do this again later)
- Cover loaf loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.
- Place in a warm spot for an hour.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F
- Once the dough is ready, brush again with the aquafaba/honey mixture again before placing in the oven. Bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Allow bread to cook on a wire cooling rack.
- Divide your dough into 4 pieces of equal size
- Roll each piece of dough into a strand (log-shape) of equal length (approx 12 inches)
- Lay the strands of dough on the surface in front of you in a tic-tac-toe formation, make sure each strand is placed in an opposite direction – one piece is over/under, and the next is under/over.
- Pick up an “under” strand, and pull it over its neighbor – so now it’s “over”; continue in a clockwise rotation until you finish the rotation
- Then, begin again in the opposite direction, working clockwise
- You should be able to continue with a third rotation, going counterclockwise again.
- Pinch the ends of each strand together if they are close enough, if not, simply cut off the excess dough and tuck the ends under