This wonderfully soft and flavour-filled braided bread has enough pizazz to keep the festive spirit going long into the new year.
WHAT YOU NEED
250ml lukewarm water
7g fast action yeast
5 egg yolks
2.5 tbsp olive oil
50g runny honey
0.5 tbsp vanilla extract
485g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
125g dark chocolate, grated
or very finely chopped
3 tbsp sugar
270g liquor-soaked cherries
(drained weight) (see breakout)
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 beaten egg for egg wash
WHAT TO DO
Note: the dough rises overnight, so baking the loaf can be split across two days.
• Gently whisk together two thirds of the water, the yeast, egg yolks, oil, honey and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add the flour and salt and mix to combine, add the remaining water as needed to create a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft and supple. It should feel slightly tacky but not sticky.
• Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover,and place in the refrigerator overnight. (It can be left in the fridge for a couple of days if needed).
• Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into as many equal portions as strands you are going to plait.
• Drain the cherries, roughly chop them andthen pat dry with kitchen roll. You don’t need to get them completely dry but try to remove any excess liquid. Mix the cherries together with the chocolate, sugar, cornflour and cinnamon.
• Roll each piece of dough out into an approximately 35x12cm oblong if you are doing a six-strand plait, or 35x20cm oblong if you are doing a three-strand plait.
• Divide the filling equally among the pieces of dough and spread it out over the centre of each, leaving an inch gap around the edges. Roll each piece up tightly from the long side (like making cinnamon rolls), pinch to seal, and then roll each cylinder with your hands into 114-140cm rope-like strands, tapering the ends slightly.
• Braid the strands together as you like.There are plenty of videos on YouTube demonstrating how to make a six-strand braid.
• Transfer the braid onto a baking sheetlined with greaseproof paper or a silicone liner, lightly cover with greased clingfilm and leave to rise for about 1.5 hours until doubled in size.
• Preheat the oven to 180C°.
• Brush the risen challah with egg wash and bake for 45-50 minutes. Give it a second coat of egg wash after 15-20 minutes and cover loosely with tin foil after about 30 minutes if it is getting too dark.
• Slide the baked challah onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely before slicing.
WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup bourbon (we like Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
11-inch strip orange peel
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 pound cherries, pitted
WHAT TO DO
Combine the bourbon, sugar, orange juice and orange peel in a small saucepan.
Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until the sugar dissolves, for about five minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
Combine the bourbon mixture and the cherries in a 500g container and seal. Allow the contents to cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator.
Chill for at least three days before using.
The cherries will keep for up to one month.
Challah recipe adapted from Epicurious and Smitten Kitchen.
Bourbon-soaked cherries recipe adapted from Southern Living