We're on day three of Holiday Donut Pan Idea Week, can you believe it? With the first day of Hanukkah being this coming Saturday, a more appropriate foodstuff for the donut pans might've been latkes, but I have had less-than-stellar results oven frying things in the donut pans. Believe me I've tried.
So, here's what I've got: challah! A dozen were delivered to my friend Beth and her family on the East Coast just yesterday because I made so many. They are a winner. I love the donut shape. I'm not a lazy person by any stretch, but there is something very appealing about grabbing an individual challah as opposed to having to cut a slice.
I adapted THIS recipe I found on the wonderful Smitten Kitchen. My method would work on any sort of egg/brioche type of bread, but here I've done challah, studded with raisins, for the holiday.
The recipe yields two dozen individual challah rings, plus a +/-8" long mini challah loaf, which was great, because I really wanted a chance to braid something! You will need 1 1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast, 1 3/4 c. lukewarm water, 1 tbsp. plus 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. vegetable oil plus more for greasing the pans and a bowl, 5 large eggs, 1 tbsp. table salt, 8 c. all-purpose flour plus more for dusting your work surface, 1 c. raisins plumped in water, +/-1/3 c. poppyseeds for the tops, and A LOT OF TIME!
Start by dissolving 1 1/2 tbsp. yeast and 1 tbsp. sugar in 1 3/4 c. lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl.
Next, whisk the 1/2 c. vegetable oil in with the yeast, followed by four eggs (one at a time), and then the remaining 1/2 c. sugar and 1 tbsp. salt.
Gradually add the eight cups of flour. The first four cups I could stir with a wooden spoon, but eventually I had to bail and mix the rest with my hands.
Knead the dough on a floured work surface until smooth. Transfer it to a large bowl that has been greased with a light coat of vegetable oil. Cover with foil and let rise in a warm place for one hour. Per the recipe, I had preheated my oven to its lowest setting (170º) and then turned it off, and then set my bowl inside for an hour.
The dough after the first of the three rises (below). Punch down, cover, and let rise another half hour.
During that second rise, lightly oil four donut pans with vegetable oil.
After the second half hour rise, strain and press the water out of the raisins that were soaking, and knead into the dough.
To shape the challahs, roll and stretch palm-sized balls of dough, one at a time, to thin lengths of about 7", give or take. Long enough to fit in a donut pan cavity with only a tiny bit of overlap (or really none at all). You want the pieces of dough to be thin enough that they don't totally fill the pan cavities. They will be rising in the pans next, and need room to grow.
Pretty soon, you'll have this!
Before the last rise, brush the challahs with a beaten egg. Then let rise in a warm place for ONE MORE HOUR!
Here's the mini-loaf. Braiding challah is fun, but this one was too short to look very nice.
During that last rise, preheat your oven to 375º. After the hour is up, brush the now-risen challahs one more time with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired. Bake for around 25 minutes. Start checking the bread around 20 minutes, but it might take up to 30 minutes to get them golden brown. Out of the 24 challahs I baked, three burned on the bottoms. I'm not sure why, but I think those pan cavities may have had too much oil in them. That's my suspicion.
When they are done, they will look absolutely gorgeous, like this.
I suggest removing them from the pans when they are just cool enough to the touch, when they are a little bit more malleable. They should pop out when pried from below in a few spots with a butter knife. The ones I left in the pans because I had to go running out the door to pick Stella up from school were harder to remove from the pans, but still came out basically intact. The ones I popped out while still a little warm are prettier.
These are wonderful, by the way. Not very sweet, but just delicious. David, Stella and Oliver ate the loaf as well as a few of the burned ones and loved them. My friend Beth's daughters at two each when they got home from school yesterday. I think they are a hit! Happy Hanukkah!