by Allaya Fleischer, I Speak Food
With a splash of pumpkin and kisses of spice, this challah not only smells magnificent while baking, it makes for quite an impressive presentation, especially when braided like a pumpkin. Since Thanksgiving is not a Yom Tov and does not require two challot, you can try making one large loaf out of the dough (adjust baking time accordingly if you do this). You could also knot them into rolls.
4 – 5 cups bread flour
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup packed canned pumpkin purée
1/2 cup warm water
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons oil (I like sunflower oil for this)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spices (or, use 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Chopped raw pepitas, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds for garnish (optional)
In a measuring cup, measure out 1/2 cup of warm water, add a pinch of sugar, and sprinkle yeast on top. Mix well and proof yeast for about 5 minutes, or until a thick head forms on top. Combine 4 cups of flour and remaining dry ingredients into a mixer bowl. Combine egg, yeast and pumpkin, and then add it to the dry ingredients. Mix with paddle attachment until ingredients are well combined. Switch to dough hook and knead bread, adding additional flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and shiny and comes away from the bowl. This dough is a little tacky, but should hold together and not be very sticky. Ball up dough and place it into a well-oiled bowl, turning dough once to coat. Cover bowl with plastic and allow to rise until double in bulk.
Once the dough has risen, punch dough down and knead for one minute (this primes the yeast for the second rise). Ball up once more and return to bowl. Allow dough to rise once again until doubled in bulk. Divide dough in half and then divide each half into however many strands with which you prefer to braid. The pumpkin shapes pictured here were created with a round 4-strand braid with a small remnant of dough (shaped into a stem) tucked in between the space where the four strands meet on top.
Preheat oven to 350°. Brush tops of loaves with egg wash, spray with oil, and cover loosely with plastic. Allow loaves to rise one last time until almost double in size, about 15 - 20 minutes. Brush loaves with egg wash once again and sprinkle with seeds, if desired. Bake 25 - 30 minutes, or until loaves are sufficiently browned and sound hollow when tapped. Cool and serve.
Yield: two loaves or one large loaf