For many of you who don't know what Challah Bread is, Challah has been a staple at our tables since the creation of Judaism. The symbolism of Challah goes deeply into religion and spiritualism, and has evolved to encompass different meanings over time. Challah, or egg bread, is a lot like brioche in that it is a slightly sweet bread enriched with both eggs and fat, except challah uses oil instead of butter, and less of it, while using more eggs. Having baked over 100 loaves of challah in my life, I think it’s fairly safe to say that I know a thing or two about this Friday night Shabbat dinner staple. To bake it at home is to have it swallowed whole by an aroma so sweet, it alone could make a religious person out of you. I don’t know if it is the eggs or oils or extra honey in there, but it puts all bread-baking aromas before it to shame. Much to my delight, many of our Shabbat guests have mistaken my handiwork for its store-bought cousin. Personally, I had a lot of trouble following written instructions when I first started baking challah and it took me some trial and error practice to find the perfect recipe. Following are the directions to make two voluptuous three-braided loaves of Challah.
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup oil (vegetable or olive oil)
8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of seseme seeds
2 tablespoons of sea salt
Ok, so as you can see, I have my eggs, oil, honey, yeast, flour, and warm water all laid out.
In my KitchenAid, I sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. After letting it sit for about 10 minutes, I then beat in my honey and oil on the lowest speed.
Lastly, I beat in my three eggs. Adding the eggs last tend to make my challah taste better. I still don't know what it is, but if you want your challah to be more moist, I highly suggest this.
I then add the flour one cup at a time, still having my mixer on the lowest speed. If your dough is still sticky, just add a bit more flour. If your dough is too elastic, just add a bit more oil. You can play around with it until its at its perfect form.
I then take a large bowl, grease it up, and place my dough in the bowl. I then cover the bowl for about two to three hours, keep it someplace warm (I tend to place my bowl by my window where some sunlight gets in) and let the dough rise.
Three hours later, and you have a beautiful batch of moist dough.
I seperate the dough in six parts, and then roll out each part into a long strand.
I then sprinkle it with a little bit of flour just so I don't have sticky challah and the braiding tends to be much easier and better formed.
Now, I take three of the strands, and I begin to braid it as if I was braiding my own hair.
After braiding the first three strands, I then do the other three strands. Many people make a six-strand challah, and I avoid that. Not because, well Its a pain in the butt to braid, but because when its six strands, it never tastes fully the same to me. As you can see below, I have two loaves of braided challah and I have placed it on a greased baking sheet.
I let that challah sit for about 30 minutes just to have it plump up just a bit before I place it in the oven. Right before doing so, I mix an egg in a small bowl and then brush the challah with the egg wash. This is a personal reference, but I always use seseme and sea salt as my topping. Although you can just leave it with egg wash alone, or add some poppy seeds if you would like as well.
Having my egg wash, seseme seeds and sea salt sprinkled generously on my challah dough, I then place the challah in the oven at 375 Bake.
Now, I dont have a set time for challah only because it is really based on preference. If you like it to be a bit doughy in the middle and a tad burnt outside, keep it in for about 30 minutes. If you would like a more toasted challah bread, leave it for about 37 minutes. Below is my challah (Left in for 30 minutes). Perfectly browned and soft and decedant in the middle!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! PS, my two loaves were done before we even had our entrees!