We love baking bread. And baking bread in a cast iron skillet?? Even better! This is one of my favorite recipes for a lot of reasons. It makes a lot of dough and I can freeze half of it for an easier challah later in the week. Halved it makes a huge 12in skillet challah, thats big, big enough for dinner, and leftovers the next morning for challah french toast. SO GOOD! Anyway, when I bake this bread I start it after my first cup coffee (what, you only drink one cup a day???) and work on it slowly through out the day. Kneading by hand and letting it rest a lot only makes things fluffier and lighter. So give yourself a lot of time when you make this challah!
*This recipe makes TWO 12in cast iron skillet challah rounds! I have easily halved it in the past to just make one, buuuuut I usually make the full amount and freeze half of the dough. Instructions on that below.
What you will need:
3 tablespoons yeast
2 1/2 cups warm (110f) water separated into 2 cups and 1/2 cup
3/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoon
10 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs, 1 whole, 1 separated
12 in cast iron skillet
What you will do:
In the bowl of a stand mixer dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar in 2 cups of water. Once sugar is dissolved sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of yeast onto the water and allow to set undisturbed for 10 minutes.
While yeast bubbles...
In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon salt, set aside.
Once yeast is nice and bubbly give it a gentle stir and then add half of the flour mixture, continue to mix on low. Now, add the whole egg and one egg white (reserving the yolk for egg wash). With mixer on lowest speed, stir in the remaining flour mixture. Dough will be dry. Carefully add the remaining 1/2 cup water and stir to combine.
Once dough is mostly combined remove from stand mixer bowl and knead on floured counter for 5 minutes. The dough should feel soft, and not too sticky.
Once the dough is smooth, shape into a ball and place it in a large, greased bowl and cover with light dishcloth. Allow dough to rise in a warm place (usually on top of the stove) for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes remove dough from bowl and knead again on counter for 2-3 minutes. Place dough back into greased bowl, cover and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.
Once dough has doubled in size, punch and divide into two balls.
***If you would like to make one cast iron challah round, then wrap one of the balls of dough in wax paper and saran wrap and place in freezer. When you are ready to make the frozen dough into challah simple remove dough from freezer and place in fridge for 24hours to defrost. Then remove from fridge and allow to warm and rise (at least a couple hours), before following the rest of the directions below.***
Divide dough into 8 balls of the same size. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough into an oblong shape, about 6in long and 3in wide. Starting at the end of the oblong gently lift the end of the dough and roll up. Once rolled use your hands to roll it into a 12in strand. Repeat with each ball of dough.
Once you have eight 12in strands weave 4 vertical and 4 horizontal strands to form a hashtag, then braid ends, moving right to left (see picture collage below). Tuck under any longer, or left over strands. Gently shape dough to your liking and place in greased cast iron skillet.
In a small bowl, mix remaining egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water and gently brush onto the top of the challah. Allow to rise, uncovered for 45 minutes, or until dough has again doubled in size.
Preheat oven 350f.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Remember the dough will continue to bake once removed from the oven.
Allow to cool in pan before serving.