Challah

2015-12-11 12.24.43RECIPE #143, DAY #166

ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Challah 1,” from Joan Calloway on Allrecipes.com*

TIMING: 3 hours

2015-12-11 12.24.39DIFFICULTY: Requires some kitchen skills

TOOLS: A stand mixer with a dough hook would be ideal, and also a pastry brush

COOK TYPE: Oven, baking

HEALTH: Bread is the staff of life for many of the world’s cultures. And there’s nothing quite like home-baked bread for nourishing the body and the spirit. I am probably obligated, however, to tell you that white flour is low in fiber and nutrients and high in carbs.

2015-12-11 12.31.55EXPERIENCE: My daughter’s class has some great annual traditions. One of my favorites is the winter holiday festival. Each kid chooses a world holiday that takes place some time in the fall or winter, writes a report on it, and submits a recipe for a traditional food. Then, on the day of the school celebration, the kids bring in their dishes and the parents visit, walking around to each booth to sample the food and find out about the holidays. The kids take home a booklet of all the recipes and information.

My brother-in-law is Jewish, so my children have grown up celebrating some of the Jewish holidays with their cousins, including Hanukkah dinner. However, my daughter decided that Hanukkah was being overdone at the holiday festival. So I recommended Sukkot, which had been a favorite of mine when studying in Israel. When she found out she could make challah for it, she was sold.

A couple weeks later and I was trying to make small talk with the other parents, heartily enjoying a heaping plate of about 25 different holiday foods and Windsor was proudly handing out slices of an excellent challah bread.

NOTES: You can use poppy seeds or sesame seeds on top of the loaves, but you don’t need either one.

You can also make this without the stand mixer and dough hook. Just use a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together, then turn it out and knead by hand until smooth.

You can freeze the loaves before baking, just defrost 5 hours before baking.

This recipe yields 2 large loaves.

***

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast with 1 3/4 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Let sit while you gather your ingredients and supplies.
  2. With the whisk attachment, add 1/2 cup safflower or canola oil. Still whisking, add 4 eggs one at a time. Then add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon salt.
  3. Change to the dough hook attachment and slowly add in 8 cups all purpose flour. You want the dough to come together into a ball, so add more flour if needed. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth.
  4. Remove the ball from the bowl, clean out the bowl and dry, and then oil the bowl. Put the dough ball back and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Set in a warm place and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  5. Dough should have doubled in size. Punch down, re-cover, and allow to rise another 1/2 hour.
  6. When done, divide dough in half. Take one half of the dough and turn it out on a clean, flat, floured surface. Divide either in to 3 or 6 pieces (depending on how you want to braid), and roll each piece into a 12 inch rope. Then pinch the ends of the ropes together, braid down to the other end, and pinch off again. Make sure everything looks pretty and tuck under ugly bits, then repeat with the other half of the dough.
  7. Place braided breads on an oiled baking sheet (or freeze).
  8. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash. Place loaves in the fridge and allow to rise 1 more hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 375F.
  10. Brush on egg wash again and carefully apply poppy seeds or sesame seeds, if desired.
  11. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when you thump the top. Cool on a rack.

***

There were times when my best friend and I sat next to a roadside baker and ate a loaf of challah with absolutely no accompaniment, but you could serve with Hanukkah or Sukkot dinner, or slice it up for sandwiches or even French toast.

*Recipe changed from the original.

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