July 15, 2010

Homemade Challah

by

Easy Challah Bread

OK, so obviously I’m not very good at food photography. Moving on, then.  Making challah is a family ritual in Jewish families. I remember making challah as a child. And I want making challah to be part of BabyGirl’s childhood.

The recipe for challah is very basic. There are many variations, but the one I grew up with is just a few ingredients and a few hours of waiting. Bread baking is an art unto itself and it take lots of practice to get it right. But challah is so forgiving. I practically wants you to make it. It’s tender, slightly sweet, and absolutely delicious!

CHALLAH

Preparation Time:
60 minutes + rise time
Baking Time:
35 minutes
Ingredients

1 1/2 cups Warm Water, separated
1/2 cup Honey
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil (any neutral oil works)
4 Larger Eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
5 cups Flour, plus additional flour (may take 8 or 9 cups of flour total)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F.

2. Proof the yeast. Mix 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar together in a bowl or, as I often do, a glass measuring cup. The water should be warm so that you can stir it with your fingers without feeling too hot. Once the sugar is dissolved in the water, sprinkle the yeast into the sugar water and give a light stir. Set aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can bloom and get bubbly. If it doesn’t bubble, your yeast may be dead or the water too hot. Try again, you’ll get it!

3. I use a stand mixer because it’s easier, but you can do this all by hand. To the bowl of the stand mixer add 1 cup of warm water, honey, oil, and the bloomed yeast mixture. I use the dough hook to mix the ingredients together. You just want to incorporate the ingredients together. Add the eggs one at a time until they’re mixed in well.

4. Begin adding flour. Add about 2 cups of flour and allow it to mix into the wet ingredients. Now add the salt. You don’t want to add the salt too early because it will kill your yeast. Continue adding the flour 1-cup at a time until all 5 cups are mixed in. This is where any experience you’ve had with making bread will come in. You need to continue adding in flour, about 1 cup at a time, until a dough ball forms. It shouldn’t be sticky and should pull away from the sides of the mixer. If you stop the mixer and poke your finger into the dough ball, it should come out clean. Once the dough ball forms, continue to knead the dough for about 10 minutes. This is easy to do with the stand mixer, but if you want to do it by hand you can do that too.

5. Once the dough has been kneaded, you’ll need to remove it from the mixing bowl and put it in a large bowl to rise. One rise is sufficient and will give you a nice fluffy texture. Pour about 2 tablespoons of a neutral oil in a large bowl. You want a bowl that will hold the dough when it doubles in size. Take the dough ball and roll it around in the oil to coat the dough ball. Cover the bowl wit plastic wrap and set in a warm part of the kitchen away from any draft. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough to deflate it so it’s easy to work with.

6. Divide the dough dough into 8 equal pieces. Remove the pieces as you need them, keeping the other dough covered with towel until you’re ready to use it. Roll each piece into a rope about 14-15″ long and an inch in diameter. There are many different methods for this. I usually just roll them on a clean countertop.

7. Once you have 4 pieces, lay the 4 ropes side-by-side and pinch tops together to connect them. Braid tightly starting on the left. The braiding is often the hardest part. It does take practice to do a 4 or 6-strand challah, but with patience you’ll get it. The 4-strand challah is the traditional shape, with the 6-strand being a bit more fancy. To braid a 4-strand challah, it’s a repeated pattern of taking the rope on the left over two and under one. When you’ve got the whole braid done, pinch bottom ends and fold under.

8. Most of the time I use parchment paper, but sometimes I run out and just have to use a greased baking sheet. Place your challah on a parchment lined or greased baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap that you’ve put some non-stick spray on so it won’t stick to the challah you just worked really hard to make so beautiful. Let the bread rise, covered, in a warm place for 25-30 minutes.

9. While the dough is rising, make the egg wash that you will brush over the challah to make it shiny and help it brown. This is easy. In a small bowl mix together 1 egg and about a teaspoon of water. Whisk it together well.

10. One the dough has risen, brush with egg wash. I’m not a sesame or poppy seed kind of gal so I skip them. If you want them, you can sprinkle them on your challah now. Bake at 325°F for 30-40 minutes, until done. (If loaves are on two separate sheets, rotate halfway through baking time for even baking.) If loaves start to brown too quickly, loosely lay a piece of foil on top.

11. Remove from the oven and allow the pans to cool on wire racks, covered with a towel.

Making challah is something I really love. It takes a bit of time, but it’s so worth it. The bread is delicious and makes wonderful sandwiches and french toast. Of course, my family will eat it plain in celebration of shabbat.

You can’t go wrong with this recipe, it is as easy as it looks. Yes, it is somewhat time consuming. But that’s typical of bread baking. And once you’ve mastered this recipe, you can make caramel challah!

Bon Appetit! or as BabyGirl learned Betay’avon!

Sara

{ 4 comments }

Amy @ Dealusional July 15, 2010 at 5:47 am

It look great & yummy! Do you really have to brush with egg before baking? I’m just curious if you could skip that part and if it would affect the baking process at all.

Sara July 15, 2010 at 8:51 am

Hello Amy, that’s a great question. The egg wash is just to make it shiny and help it brown. You could omit that part but it may not brown as much and it won’t have that sheen that is common with challah. Yet, it will still be tasty!

Thank you for stopping by and if you decide to make challah please let me know how it comes out.

Sara

Laura July 15, 2010 at 7:35 am

Hmmm… maybe you should guest blog for Being a Jew in C-U!! ;-). YUMMY! Those are beautiful. But how did you eat all of that?

Sara July 15, 2010 at 9:04 am

Hi Laura,

Thanks for stopping by and reading about my challah making experience. It was A LOT of challah for 2 people, so I used the 2nd one to make baked French Toast for my neighbor. If it had been up to my daughter, she would have eaten only challah for dinner! I would think it would freeze pretty well, but ours was gone the next day.

I definitely need more practice to make them quicker but it was fun to do this with my daughter.

And, I’d guest blog for you anytime!

Sara

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