Jewish holidays that fall on a Sabbath often include a sweet challah (HAH-luh) in their celebration, as a symbolic way of ensuring a sweet year. Dates, nuts, and orange peel add just the right twist for this traditional braided bread of the Sabbath.
2 3/4 to 3 /4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 package active dry yeast
3/4 cup soy milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup margarine (at least 80 percent vegetable oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
Three Glazes (see recipe below)
In a large mixing bowl stir together 1 cup of the flour, cocoa powder, and yeast; set aside.
In a medium saucepan heat soy milk, sugar, margarine, and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees F) and margarine almost melts. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Add egg; beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping the side of the bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in pecans, chopped dates, and orange peel. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes). Shape dough into ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease the surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
Punch dough down. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into thirds. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape each portion of dough into a 16-inch-long rope (3 ropes total). Place the ropes about 1 inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Starting in the middle of ropes, loosely braid by bringing the left rope under the center rope. Next bring right rope under the new center rope. Repeat to the end. On the other end, braid by bringing alternate ropes over center rope. Press ends together to seal; tuck under. Cover; let rise in a warm place until nearly double (about 1 hour).
Bake in 325 degree F oven about 35 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. (If necessary, cover loosely with foil the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.) Remove from baking sheet. Cool on wire rack; drizzle with Three Glazes. Makes 24 servings.
Make-ahead tip: Prepare challah but do not glaze. Wrap in foil and place in large freezer container or 2-gallon plastic freezer bag. Seal, label, and freeze up to 1 month. Thaw 2 hours at room temperature before glazing.
In a medium mixing bowl stir together 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar and 4 teaspoons softened margarine. Add enough warm water (1 to 2 tablespoons) to make icing of drizzling consistency. Divide icing evenly into 3 portions.
To 1 portion, stir in 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, adding more warm water 1 drop at a time, if necessary, until icing is of drizzling consistency. For another portion, combine 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee crystals and a few drops hot water until coffee is dissolved. Add coffee mixture to powdered sugar mixture, adding more warm water a drop at a time, if necessary, until mixture reaches drizzling consistency. Leave the third portion white. Use to glaze the bread.