It’s been far too long since we have had french toast. There have been a number of occasions when we wanted to make it so badly that we’ve gone to the local pharmacy (the closest store to us that sells any sort of food) to find bread. Alas, we could not bring ourselves to buy the wonderbread-esque stuff that they sell, so it’s been a while. Yesterday, though, was our ten year anniversary so on top of feeling hungry, I was feeling nostalgic. French toast is our special breakfast food. Before I learned how to make scones, pancakes or crepes, french toast was our thing. So, I knew that I had to make some challah in preparation for a very special Sunday morning french toast meal.
Challah is by far my favourite bread for making french toast. It’s slightly sweet and soaks up the milk/egg mixture like nothing else. There’s nothing better than french toast with a crusty, perfectly browned outside and creamy, soft inside. Even though I was feeling nostalgic, I had to put a twist on things and I thought of black sesame challah right away.
If you haven’t had black sesame before, it’s time to give it a try. The flavour is very different from white sesame seeds. It’s nutty and I’ve had it mostly in sweet dishes. In fact, my first experience with black sesame was with this black sesame ice cream, which is to die for. Ever since I made that, I’ve been wanting to use black sesame in other dishes, especially breads, but haven’t gotten around to it. This was the perfect opportunity.
This challah recipe is really great for a number of reasons. First, it was developed by Smitten Kitchen, who is always reliable. Second, the dough isn’t sticky or hard to work with at all. Especially with a drier filling like the black sesame paste, the dough is super easy to braid and can be played with quite a bit if you get confused at first with the steps for the braiding. Once you get the hang of it though, it’s really easy. Even though the drier black sesame paste makes everything really easy, you can also fill this challah with all sorts of fillings, including blackberry filling (one of my earliest recipes posted up here!).
The end result is a beautifully bronzed bread, stuffed generously with barely sweetened black sesame paste. It is delicious plain or slathered with some butter. Of course, it is best made into some simple french toast. Add a bit of vanilla or orange zest into a basic french toast milk/egg mixture and you’ve got yourself something very special and worth celebrating with.
Base recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Refer to the photos above for some extra help with the weaving!
In a large bowl, whisk together yeast, 1 teaspoon of honey, and water until incorporated.
Let mixture stand for about 5 minutes, until foamy. If your mixture doesn't foam up it means your yeast is dead and you should start over.
Whisk the remaining honey, olive oil, vanilla, eggs and salt into foamy yeast mixture.
Add 1 cup of flour at a time, incorporating it with a wooden spoon, until a shaggy dough forms,
On a lightly floured countertop, knead dough by hand for 5-10 minutes, until a soft, smooth dough forms. Add flour as needed, the dough shouldn't be sticky.
Place the dough in a bowl lightly coated with olive oil (to prevent sticking as the dough rises) and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, toast sesame seeds in a pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
You will know when the seeds are ready when they start to smell fragrant and crumble easily between your fingers. They may also start popping, which will tell you that they are ready.
Blend toasted black sesame seeds, honey and olive oil together in a food processor. Depending on the strength of your blender, the paste may not be completely smooth but the seeds should be quite broken down and the mixture should be spreadable.
Once your dough has risen, cut it into two equal halves.
With a rolling pin, roll out one of the halves until it is a rough rectangle. The size and shape don't really matter but mine was about 12 inches x 6 inches.
Spread half of your sesame paste in the middle of the rectangle, making sure to leave an inch of space around all of the edges.
Roll the dough into a long, tight strand so that the filling is all inside the dough. Press the seams of the strand together so it doesn't unravel.
Stretch the strand until it is about 3 feet in length. Repeat with second half of dough and sesame paste.
Cut each strand into equal halves. You will have 4 strands of dough, of equal length (about 1.5 feet each).
Place two of the strands parallel to one another. Weave the other two strands, perpendicular to the first ones.
You will have eight strands of dough coming out from the middle.
Take the strands that come from underneath the centre and move it over the strand on the right of it.
Now take the strand you just went over (the ones you haven't moved yet) and move it over the strand to it's left. Repeat this pattern until you have no more dough.
Tuck ends under the bread, pinching to make sure they will stick.
Transfer dough to a parchment lined baking tray.
Brush with egg and let rise for 1 more hour.
45 minutes into the rise, preheat your oven to 375F.
At the end of the rise, brush loaf with egg one more time and sprinkle with black sesame seeds.
Back for 30-35 minutes. Make sure to check on the bread after about 15-20 minutes to make sure it is not browning too quickly. If it is, cover loosely with aluminum foil for the remainder of the bake.
Cool on rack before serving.
Black Sesame Challah was last modified: January 10, 2015 by