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Challah: Easy as 1, 2, 3

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Making homemade challah only seems hard. Everyone’s grandmother made challah and without the aid of fancy bread machines or other equipment.

Making challah is really easy and very gratifying. It is also mostly passive, which means you can be doing other things while the dough takes care of itself.

I guarantee that if you show up at a holiday gathering with homemade challah, you will be revered as a rock star. Bake an extra loaf and save it for killer French toast or bread pudding. Delish! Shana Tovah Umetuka. Happy and sweet New Year!

Heavenly Challah
Makes 2 large loaves

  • 6 1/2 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • scant 1/2 cup neutral flavored oil (such as canola)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup dried fruit such as: raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots (chopped), dried dates and figs (chopped) or any combination of these
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, yeast and warm water. Mix together until all of the flour is moistened. Cover and let the yeast proof in a warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, the flour mixture should be active and bubbly. This is the starter sponge. While the sponge is forming, lightly oil a baking sheet and put aside.
  2. Add all of remaining ingredients to the sponge, except the remaining flour, and begin mixing with the dough hook attachment. Once the mixture begins to come together, begin adding flour until a smooth dough is formed that does not stick to the bowl. (You may not need all of the flour, but you will probably need most of it.) Once the dough begins to pull away from the bowl, increase the mixer speed until the dough begins to slap against the sides of the bowl. If the dough begins to stick at all, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. You want the dough to be a cohesive whole that freely moves around the bowl, slapping loudly. Knead in this manner for 15 minutes. (you will want to hold on to the mixer during this process so that it does not “walk” off the counter!)
  3. After 15 minutes, cover the dough, and allow to rest in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
  4. After 2 hours, place dough on a very lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal portions. Roll each of the 8 portions into thick ropes about 10 inches long. Each loaf will be made of 4 of these ropes.To Braid The Challah:

    Line up 4 of the dough ropes in a row like this, llll. Begin braiding in the middle by placing piece 4 over piece 3. Then, place piece 2 over piece 4. Finally place piece 1 UNDER piece 4. Repeat. Continue in this manner until you reach the end. Then, gather all of the ends together and tuck them under the loaf. Flip loaf around, and repeat exactly on the other side until you reach the other end. Again, tuck the gathered ends under the loaf. Transfer braided loaf to prepared baking pan. Braid second loaf, and place on same pan, leaving enough room for the challah to rise. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, leave in a warm place, and allow to rise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Begin preheating oven to 350 degrees.

For a High Holiday Round Challah

Divide the challah into 2 pieces and form 2 ropes. Coil the first rope into a round with an empty center. Coil the second piece of dough tightly and place it into the center of the first. The second coil should rest slightly on top of the first rope.

Before the loaves are baked , you must egg wash them to give a shiny appearance. You will need:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • sesame or poppy seeds, optional

Whisk egg and water together thoroughly. Gently brush loaves with egg wash, being careful to cover all exposed surfaces without allowing egg to pool on baking sheet around loaves. Sprinkle with seed garnish if desired.

Bake in middle of preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes. When fully baked, Challah will sound hollow when thumped on the bottom, and will be a rich mahogany brown color.

Remove immediately from baking pan and allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

Laura Frankel is an Executive Chef at Wolfgang Puck Kosher Catering and author of numerous kosher cookbooks including Jewish Cooking for All Seasons and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes. To purchase her books, click here. For more articles by Laura, click here.
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