chinese hanukkah: scallion pancake challah
Ever since a family friend introduced me to the fluffy goodness that is challah when I was a kid, I’ve always sought it out at every bakery. Challah is light, the tiniest bit sweet, and perfectly eggy. We’d eat it with our Jewish friends on Shabbat, but it would also make an appearance at really any other occasion. We begged our mom to buy it, so sometimes we’d stop at The Village Mill after school, and on the car ride home we would take turns tearing off soft, cotton candy-like pieces. Then we’d get home and sit at our counter, swiveling around on our barstools and finishing the braided loaf piece by piece. So I have a soft spot for challah dating back around two decades.
And then I found this scallion pancake challah from my name is yeh, and I immediately knew I had to make it. Scallion pancakes were another childhood favorite of mine; my mom would buy them frozen from 99 Ranch and fry them for us as an afternoon snack, and we’d eat them hot out of the pan, burning our fingers in the process. But the crispy outsides and chewy insides were worth not waiting for. So this recipe was strangely nostalgic for me, despite the fact that I am decidedly not Jewish.
This was my first-ever time baking bread (this was also way back in December, ha). I’d wanted to try it for a long time, but I was intimidated, as live yeast and I have never had a great relationship (i.e., the failed garlic knots Preeti and I attempted one time in college). As it turns out, the trick is just waiting for the dough to proof. Also, a bread hook doesn’t hurt.
scallion pancake challah
Yields: Two trays of scones
Prep: 2 hours
Cook: 30 minutes
scallion pancake challah
1 envelope active dry yeast
¾ cup warm water
6½ tsp sugar
3¼ cup flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
⅓ cup flavorless oil
6 tsp honey or molasses
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 scallions, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper
Crushed red pepper
1 large egg yolk + 1 tbsp water for brushing
In a medium bowl, combine 1 envelope yeast, ¾ cup warm water, and the ½ tsp of sugar, and give it a little stir. Let it sit for about five minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together the 3¼ cup flour, 1 tsp salt, and remaining six teaspoons sugar.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs, ⅓ cup oil, and the 6 tsp honey or molasses.
When the yeast is foamy, add it to the dry mixture, immediately followed by the egg mixture and stir to combine. Knead by hand on a floured surface or with the dough hook until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough, 7 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and let it sit at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about two hours.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and roll each part into a 12-inch rope. Gently flatten each rope so that it forms a strip about three inches wide. Brush each with the 1 tbsp sesame oil and sprinkle with chopped scallions, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper.
Roll the strips up lengthwise like a jelly roll and pinch the seams to seal. Lay them seam-side down next to one another, and pinch them together at one end. Then braid the strips and pinch them at the other end. Place the loaf on a lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
Brush the loaf with the egg wash (1 egg + 1 tbsp water) and sprinkle with sesame seeds and black pepper if desired. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and has an internal temperature of 190°F. Begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes. Let cool slightly and enjoy.
This was amazing. It was perfect—exactly the texture I remember the challah from my childhood was, with that familiar kick of spice from the scallion pancake filling. This was the kind of food that all fusion food should aspire to be. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was that this actually came out well. I will absolutely be making this again, and I’m pleased to say I’m no longer intimidated by baking bread.
Also, since it was December, we made these garlic and onion latkes with sour cream and onion dip in the spirit of Hanukkah!