This is something I’ve been wanting to try ever since discovering Trader Joe’s gorgeous brioche loaves. Why not bake challah in a loaf pan so the slices can be uniform – for sandwiches, for French toast, or just for the sake of consistency.
Last week I experimented with one loaf – half the usual recipe I use from Silver Palate – in an oversized Dansk Kobenstyle loaf pan. The result told me that the traditional braiding would not work – as it rose in the pan for an hour, the ends plumped while the middle stayed lower – and while still delicious, the loaf resembled the silhouette of an oil tanker.
Today’s called for a rethink. I made the full recipe, which usually produces one enormous loaf (a small braided loaf laid upon a larger one to simulate a 6-braid technique). This time, I also divided the risen dough 1/3 – 2/3 for a smaller and a larger loaf done in two separate loaf pans – the big Dansk pan, and a smaller (8×4-1/2) from Williams-Sonoma. And to ensure even rising within the pans, I did a very crude braid, keeping the dough-snakes thick, and working from the middle towards both ends.
After an hour rising in the pans, I got just result I’d hoped for (larger pan lined with parchment, since it is not non-stick and I’m not taking any chances here):
After brushing with egg wash and sprinkling with poppy seeds, these baked at 350º for 30 minutes, side by side with room in-between. I did rotate the pans after checking on them at the 20-minute point, just to ensure evenness. And then, once I took the internal temperature and found only about 185º, I removed them from pans and baked another 7 minutes to reach 200º. This also helped brown the previously unexposed areas of crust.
The original Silver Palate recipe is in my blog-post The Comfort of Challah. The only difference is in the set-up for baking in pans. I’m tempted to freeze one for our French toast after Thanksgiving, but freshly baked stays fresh for a week, so no-need!