Challah is a Jewish bread eaten every week on the Jewish Sabbath and on Jewish Holidays. In recent years, however, Challah was “discovered” by many Americans, and started showing up in recipes such as French toast. I used to buy our weekly Challah at the local supermarket, until… Doron found this wonderful Challah recipe about two years ago, when he was surfing the net http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/challah-29091.
We’ve tried a few other recipes before, but were never committed to baking Challah at home, until we discovered this recipe. It has since become our ultimate Challah recipe (until we find an even better one).
And yet, the eternal winger, aka me, just couldn’t resist making some small changes even to this wonderful recipe. I didn’t really change the ingredients, but I simplified the process… I don’t think it compromised the end result, though. You are welcome to compare.
1 cup warm water (about 105°F to 115°F)
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoons sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for coating the bowl
1/4 cup sugar
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
2 teaspoons fine salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
Place the yeast in a mixer bowl and add the warm water, and ½ teaspoon of sugar. Give it a stir and let the yeast develop for 5 minutes.
Add to the bowl the flour, eggs, sugar and salt. Using the mixer’s spiral dough attachment, mix the ingredients until the dough just starts to form. Add the oil and continue kneading the dough on low speed for 5 -7 minutes, until the dough detaches from the bowl’s wall, but still sticks to the bottom. If the dough is too sticky, add 2 tablespoons of flour and knead for one more minute.
Grease a large bowl with 1 teaspoon of oil. Transfer the dough into the greased bowl, cover the bowl with a clean towel, and leave in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Divide each half into 3 balls. Make a long string of dough (a snake) out of each ball. You can use your hands to roll the dough back and forth, on a lightly floured surface, while also pushing it outwards to both sides.
The other way to create a dough snake is to hold the dough in your hands, squeezing and massaging it vertically. This way you use gravitation to help pull the dough down and thus elongate it. Every once in awhile turn the dough upside down, so that the snake is about the same width on both ends.
Once you have three snakes ready, lay them on the work surface vertically to you and horizontally to each other. Connect the top ends of the snakes, then braid the snakes gently all the way to the bottom.
Do not pull the snakes while braiding them, only fold them into place. Connect the bottom ends of the snakes and fold it underneath.
Gently pick up the Challah from the work surface and place it on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Repeat the process with the rest of the dough to make a second Challah. Cover the Challahs with a towel and leave in a warm place for a second rise.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Right before placing the Challahs in the oven, make an egg wash using one beaten egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Using a brush, brush the egg wash over the top of the Challah to give it a shine.
Place the Challahs in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Challah is ready when it makes a hollow sound when you knock on it. If you are not sure, insert a knife in one of the seams, in the middle of the Challah, and see if it comes out sticky or dry.
Remove from the oven and from the baking sheet, and place on a cooling rack to cool. If you leave the Challah to cool on the baking sheet, the bottom will get soggy.
You may freeze one of the Challahs to save it for another time. In our house it rarely happens. We finish both Challahs in one weekend.