Introduction: Challah is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish bread, generally served with dinner on the sabbath and other holidays. It’s sweet and eggy, and is really great in sandwiches, as french toast, or as a side with dinner. Challah is the first bread I learned how to make and is very representative of yeast breads. If you can make it, you can make tons of similar recipes.
The two things that define bread are yeast and kneading, and this recipe requires both.
If you’ve never made bread before, read my post on yeast and kneading.
Materials (makes two loaves):
Medium, large, and extra large bowls. Two baking trays. BBQ brush. Oven.
1 package rapid rise yeast, 8 cups flour (probably wont use it all), 3/4 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3 eggs
raisins, poppy or sesame seeds (optional).
Add 1/2 cup warm (about 100F) water to the medium bowl, dissolve 1 tbsp sugar. Gently sprinkle one packet yeast over the water. Don’t stir. Leave alone for 10 minutes to allow yeast to rehydrate in peace.
While yeast is activating, sift 4 cups flour with 3/4 cup sugar in the extra-large bowl, then pour 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup oil, and two large beaten eggs over top. Pour in the activated yeast, which should look slightly frothy. Mix everything well using a large spoon.
Sprinkle in an additional two cups of flour, stirring as you go. When the mixture is too thick to stir, use your hands to knead the dough. You may knead on a flour covered counter top or inside the extra large bowl.
Continue to knead in flour until the dough is no longer sticky, this may mean using a few more cups of flour. The dough should feel smooth and bounce back when punched. If the dough is at all sticky you should add more flour. This is the ideal time to knead in raisins or other fillers. Be sure to knead for at least 10 minutes.
Oil the large bowl and transfer the dough into it, then cover with a damp cloth. The dough needs to rise somewhere warm. You can put it outside in the sun, in an oven, or in a hot water bath. To make a hot water bath, fill the extra large bowl with steaming hot water and float the bowl containing the dough. Allow to rise for one hour, or until dough ball has doubled in size.
After the dough has risen, punch it down! This is very simple – give the dough a few strong punches to reduce the volume then punch softly or knead the dough for about ten minutes. Separate the dough into two balls and place each ball on an oiled baking sheet. Separate each ball into three “snakes,” and braid together. Don’t worry about shaping perfect loaves, this wont affect the taste. Allow the braided loaves to rise in a warm place for an hour.
Beat an egg yolk and brush it onto the loaves to glaze them. If you want to top with poppy or sesame seeds, you can beat them into the glaze or sprinkle them over top (or both). Preheat oven to 350 F and bake for 30 mns, or until crust is golden brown. Enjoy!