A Googly-Eyed Black Sesame Challah for Halloween
It’s dramatic, it’s bold, it’s wonderfully weird, it’s…googly-eyed.
Meet: the Halloween challah.
Or, as I like to call it, “Challah-ween challah.”
What’s that Nietzsche quote? “If you stare too long into the abyss, the abyss stares back”?
Yes. Well. This wisdom applies to Halloween challah as well.
Which is why I do not recommend staying alone with it in your apartment for too long.
If you haven’t already lost your sanity due to the part where you, um, baked a googly-eyed challah, you will lose it shortly after it comes out of the oven.
You might also begin subbing “googly-eyed challah” into your favorite song lyrics.
“Hey, where did we go?
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow
Playin' a new game
Laughing and a-runnin’ hey, hey
Skipping and a-jumpin’
In the misty morning fog with…
Our hearts a-thumpin' and you,
My googly-eyed challah
You, my googly-eyed challah.”
I will leave you with that. Recipe follows.
Oh! BEFORE I GO, THOUGH! Definitely check out the rest of the Halloween shabbat ideas—they will help this googly-eyed beaut make a little more sense. A little.
Googly-Eyed Black Sesame Halloween Challah
Makes 1 extra-large challah or two medium-sized challah loaves
What You’ll Need
For the challah:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 3-4 tablespoons more for kneading
1.5 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup warm water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) dry active yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temperature (pro tip: you can warm them up quickly by letting them sit in a glass of room-temperature or slightly warm water for a bit!)
1/2 cup olive oil
20 drops black food coloring
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup black sesame seeds, for surface
Latex gloves (optional, for less messy kneading!)
For the Sesame Paste:
1 cup black sesame seeds
4 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
For the egg wash:
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
1 tablespoon water
WHAT YOU’LL DO
In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with the yeast and 1 cup of warm water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
When time’s up, add the eggs, honey, olive oil, and food coloring on top of the flour-yeast mixture, and combine on low speed using the paddle attachment or dough hook. Add the remaining all-purpose flour, the bread flour, the kosher salt, and the sugar; mix until all ingredients are combined and a shaggy dough ball forms.
Wearing latex gloves (optional!), turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 2-3 minutes until the surface is smooth, and a nice ball is formed. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1.5 hours at room temperature or until doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, make your sesame paste! Toast sesame seeds in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When they begin to “pop” and smell delicious (should take no more than 5-10 minutes), add them to the bowl of a food processor along with the honey and olive oil. Process until fine—it won’t be smooth, but it’ll at least be spreadable.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and cut into 4 parts (this is, of course, assuming you want to make one large four-stranded loaf—you can also make two four-stranded loaves by dividing into 8 parts and repeating the braiding process twice, or two three-stranded loaves by dividing into 6 parts and repeating the braiding process twice, and so on). Roll each part into a long rope, a little over a foot long.
Using a rolling pin, flatten each rope. Spread your sesame paste in the middle of the rectangle using a knife or the back of a spoon, making sure to leave some space around all of the edges. Roll each strand of dough on top of itself to seal the sesame paste inside, then pinch the seams together firmly so it doesn't unravel during the baking process.
Pinching all four strands together at one end, begin your braid (this is a great resource for your first four-stranded attempt, and this is my personal favorite for really getting the process down the first time around!). Pinch the end as well and tuck under the entire loaf slightly, just to avoid unraveling.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the loaves onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover very loosely with plastic wrap; let rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
Combine beaten egg and water. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaf and coat the exterior with egg wash using a pastry brush. Sprinkle surface evenly with black sesame seeds.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. (Two notes here: one, I always try not to over-bake mine since challah is supposed to have a chewier, cake-like consistency, but you do want to make sure it’s not still legitimately doughy! And two: Because the challah is a deep black color, you’ll want to be sure you don’t burn it—the surface won’t be that tell-tale golden brown color.)
Allow to cool slightly, then slip candy eyes into all the cracks and crevices of the challah’s surface just before serving! (Be warned: The smallest candy eyes tend to melt and/or bleed their colors a little bit, so I’d add these last, just before guests arrive.)