Now that it’s officially fall (although it’s still 85 degrees here in SoCal) I thought it was time for some good ole pumpkin recipes. I am that person, the one who, when the clock strikes midnight on September 21st, breaks out everything pumpkin. The pumpkin stickies go up on the windows, the pumpkin shaped coffee mugs come out, and I run to Trader Joe’s and stock up on canned pumpkin puree. If we didn’t currently live in an apartment with a shared outdoor space, there would be halloween decorations covering the lawn.
Fall, to me, brings a sense of excitement. Here in California it means the rainy season is almost upon us and there really is no better time to be in LA than when it rains. The city looks glittery, almost like someone has covered it in an instagram filter (and the smog and my allergies go away too). While nothing will beat the sight of freshly fallen snow, LA after a rainstorm is a close second.
While the leaves may not change colors down here in the beach cities of Southern California, with this loaf baking in the oven I still get a sense of those chilly Midwestern fall days when the heating oven fogs up the windows and the leaves look like an impressionist painting with all of their fall colors. The smell of the pumpkin pie spice in the oven brings just a small piece of Chicago fall to my kitchen.
4 ½ Teaspoons instant yeast (2 packets of active dry yeast works too but I have found instant yeast results in a fluffier texture)
¾ Cup sugar
2 Large eggs, beaten
1 Teaspoon kosher salt
½ Cup margarine, melted
1 ½ Cups pumpkin puree
½ Cup warm water
2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
7 cups all-purpose flour ( I typically use anywhere from 6-8 cups of flour depending on the temperature and humidity outside)
Whisk eggs, salt, ½ cup melted margarine, ¾ cup sugar, 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree, ½ cup warm water, pumpkin pie spice, and yeast in a large bowl.
Add the flour one cup at a time to yeast mixture. Using a strong spatula to mix at the beginning and using your hands to mix once it gets too difficult with the spatula.
Once the dough is fully mixed, turn onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes. (If you don’t knead the dough well enough, the challah will not hold its shape when it is braided.)
Grease a large bowl with spray oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with a damp paper towel and put in the oven to prove. (Make sure the oven is off!) Proof until the dough is doubled in size about 45 minutes-1 hour.
Once proved, turn the dough onto a floured surface and cut into 6 equal portions. Keep three portions out and place three back into the bowl. Shape each of the three portions into a long rope. Using your palm, press the three ropes together at the top and begin to braid the dough. Once finished braiding, tuck each of the ends under to create a more finished/clean look. Do the same with the remaining three pieces of dough. Let proof for another 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. While the oven is heating beat one egg with a splash of water to create an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the top of the loaves. If desired, sprinkle the top of the loaves with a mixture of sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then increase the temperature to 425 degrees. (Keep an eye on the loaves once you up the temperature, you may have to cover them with tinfoil if the tops start to get too dark.)
Continue baking for another 15-20 minutes until the loaves sound hollow when you tap on the bottom.
NOTES: Do not try to slice the bread right when it comes out of the oven. If you are storing the bread to eat later, make sure it is fully cooled before you put it into any kind of container or it will create condensation that will lead to mold.