Pull-Apart Challah Rolls

Who doesn’t like challah? My whole family adores this recipe — we’ve made it at least a half-dozen times since we first tried it. I find that many challahs sold today are almost like dessert. They are sweet and super-eggy; they practically squish rather than tear. They’re very different from the challah I grew up with, which was barely sweetened and much more dry. That’s why it made such good French toast.

This challah recipe is a nice blend of those two varieties. It is enriched with eggs, just a bit. There is honey used as a sweetener, but the sweetness is subtle and not cloying. My boys think the pull-apart nature of the rolls is the best thing since… well… sliced bread.

After making Peter Reinhart’s (Two-Day) Challah last month, I was exposed to the idea of a “cool rise” in bread making. It’s very convenient to be able to make a dough the night before, store it the fridge, and bake it off the next day. As a yeast newbie, I had been afraid I’d kill off the yeast. But that fear is unfounded, at least for this recipe. I think that, as Peter explains, the overnight in the fridge deepens the flavors and makes a better product. It’s still delicious with two warm rises, though.

We like this challah so much that I’d temporarily stopped experimenting with other bread recipes. I’m going to remedy that tonight with a nice loaf of French bread.

Pull-Apart Challah Rolls
Adapted slightly from Honey Challah Rolls

4 c. bread flour
2 packages active dry yeast
1½ tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs, 1 of them separated
1 c. hot water (120° to 130° F)
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. olive oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, use your paddle to mix 3½ c. bread flour, yeast, and salt, blending well. Add 1 whole egg and 1 yolk, hot water, honey, and oil to the bowl. Mix until combined, scraping down the sides if necessary. Refrigerate your remaining egg white. Then switch to your dough hook.

Knead the dough for about 6 minutes, adding more flour if the dough feels sticky, until it is smooth and elastic. (I usually add another quarter-cup.) Place the dough in a greased bowl, then turn it over once. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, until it has doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Divide the dough into 16 even pieces. I like to do this by forming it into a loose roll and then cutting it into halves until I have 16 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, pulling and pinching the dough underneath itself so each ball has a smooth top. Arrange the balls in a greased 9-inch cake pan: 10 around perimeter, then 5, and 1 ball in the center.

Lightly beat the reserved egg white and brush it over your rolls. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, up to an hour if doing a warm rise. You can also do the second rise in your refridgerator, overnight. Just remove the dough from the fridge an hour before you are ready to bake it, so it comes up to room temperature.

Bake rolls at 350° F for 22 – 25 minutes, until golden brown. Check challah at 20 minutes for color — if it is browning too quickly, you can cover the top loosely with foil while it finishes baking.

Let challah cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes, and then pull apart to eat.