Every time someone asks me to bake a a loaf of bread or a batch of rolls, my mind always goes to this fragrant challah. There is something so special about challah to begin with, isn’t there? It’s a perfect loaf for any occasion.
I have had friends describe this recipe “light as air.” Fragrant citrus and aromatic saffron make such a luxurious addition to an already divine bread recipe. I adore the addition of fragrant saffron threads and grapefruit juice and zest. It is a surprising combination which never fails to surprise people.
Holiday Challah with Saffron & Grapefruit
- 1 tablespoon fresh grapefruit zest
- 1.5 teaspoons saffron threads
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6 cups all-purpose flour more or less
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for the bowl
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs plus one more for egg wash
- 1/2 cup grapefruit juice
- 1/4 cup white sesame seeds optional
- Whisk the warm water, saffron threads, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a medium bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Combine the flour, oil, grapefruit juice and zest, salt, eggs, yeast mixture, and the remaining sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until the dough comes together in a firm, stretchy mass, about 7 minutes.
- Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead to form a tight ball, about 2 minutes. Lightly oil the mixer bowl, return the dough to it, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide it into six equal pieces. Roll each into a 12-inch-long strand.
- Braid three ropes, tucking in the ends. Repeat with the other 3 strands of dough to form a second loaf. Transfer both braids to the prepared pan, spacing them at least 5 inches apart.
- Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until puffed and the volume increases by about a third, roughly 45 minutes.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Beat the remaining egg with a couple teaspoons of water or milk and gently brush it over the loaves to lightly coat. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
- Bake until browned and well risen, approximately 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.