I first came across this loaf whilst watching ‘Britain’s Best Bakery’ a couple of years ago. Did you ever watch it, hosted by Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell? I really enjoyed it, though sit me in front of most baking programme and you won’t hear a peep out of me, other than the obligatory ‘Mmm’.
Any how, Cholla, after watching it being made (I think as a 4 strand plait) I was inspired to have a go myself. I found a lovely recipe in the Great British Bake Off book of baking which accompanied series 1, and didn’t look back. The GBBO book’s recipe uses 700g flour, but wanting to hand knead it I reduced the volume of ingredients by almost half , which, for me, is far easier to work with. And although it’s obviously a smaller loaf, it’s still a substantial size using 400g of flour.
Traditionally, Cholla is an egg bread made to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath and holidays. It’s a white bread, often braided and sweetened with honey and sometimes sultanas; and enriched with eggs. My Jewish Learning explains some of the symbolism and history behind the loaf, which I found to be really interesting.
I really enjoy braiding bread, it’s so much fun (note to self: get out more!), and they look impressive once the bread has been baked. Most braids are straight forward to do, however the 8 strand plait does take a bit of practice, I must say!! Though it’s certainly worth the effort. The Cholla I’ve made here is shaped with a 5 strand braid, which again is really straight forward, being only 2 distinct movements.
It’s a lovely loaf, whether you enjoy it with a slathering of lemon curd, toasted, used for eggy bread or for a regular sandwich.
Let’s go and bake!
Cholla – 5 Strand Braid Yum
Yield: 1 loaf
Time: hands on time 25 minutes, 40 minutes bake, plus proving & cooling time
Adapted from: GBBO book of baking, series 1
You will need:
1 x large baking tray
For the Bread
400g Strong White Bread Flour
5g Easy Bake Dried Yeast
145ml Lukewarm Water
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. Runny Honey
50ml Sunflower Oil
1 Egg, beaten
How to make it:
1. Make the dough. Place the flour, salt and yeast into a good sized bowl (keeping your salt & yeast separate). With your hand, combine the flour salt and yeast and make a well in the centre. Add the 2 beaten eggs, honey and sunflower oil and two-thirds of the water. Use your hand to combine the dry ingredients with the wet, adding more water as you do so. You will need most of the water. Bring the dough together, using it to ‘clean’ the bowl.
2. Knead the dough. Place the dough onto a clean work surface drizzled with a little oil and knead it for 10 minutes. As the gluten in the flour develops, the dough will become stretchy and less sticky.
3. Test the dough. Break off a small amount of dough and stretch it with both of your hands to create a ‘window pane’. If the dough stretches, without breaking, to allow you to see through the ‘window pane’ it is ready for the next stage. If it snaps and rips, continue kneading for a couple more minutes then re-test.
4. Prove the dough. Place the dough into a large clean bowl and cover with clingfilm or similar. Either prove overnight in the fridge or elsewhere for at least an hour, until it has doubled in size. Like all breads, it will develop more favour by proving it slowly. If you have proved the dough in the fridge, allow it to comeback to room temperature before the next stage.
5. Knock back the dough. Uncover the dough and tip it onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Fold the dough repeatedly in on itself for 30 seconds or so to knock the dough back.
6. Prepare to shape the dough. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces. Roll each piece, sausage like, until they are about 45cm long.
7. Plait the dough. Lay all 5 strands side by side, joining the ends farthest from you. Number each of the strands, 1-5, from left to right. Adjust the position of strands 1 & 2 so that there is a gap between strands 2 and 3. Take strand 5 and lay it across strands 3 & 4 so that it sits to the right of strand 2. This is now strand 3. There are now 3 strands to the left of the group and 2 to the right. Take strand 1 and lay it across strands 2 & 3 so that it sits to the left of strand 4. This is now strand 3, and there will be 2 strands to the left of the group and 3 to the right. Take strand 5 and lay it across strands 3 & 4 sitting it to the right of strand 2. Take strand 1 and lay it across strands 2 & 3 and sitting it to the left of strand 4. Continue with this pattern until the bread is shaped. Tuck the ends under to neaten.
8. Prove the dough for a second time. Lay the plait on a large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover, perhaps in a large plastic bag and leave in a warm place for about 40 minutes.
9. Pre-heat the oven. Towards the end of the second proving, preheat the oven to 220c / Fan 200 / Gas 7.
10. Glaze the bread. Lightly glaze the bread dough with beaten egg, trying not to stick the loaf to the tray.
11. Bake. Place in the oven and bake for a total of about 40 minutes. After 10 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 190c / Fan 170 / Gas 5. You may need to cover the bread after 20-25 minutes of baking as the sugars and egg glaze can brown the loaf quite quickly. The bread may also need rotating part way through the bake.
12. Test if it’s baked. After 35 – 40 minutes of baking, remove the loaf from the oven and tap it on the underside. If it sounds hollow the loaf is ready; place on a cooling tray. Otherwise place it directly on the oven shelf, without the baking tray, for a few more minutes.