Challah was one of the first recipes I posted back in 2011. It has been updated to include my step-by-step video and new photographs.
Sometimes I have a strong desire to get in the kitchen and get rid of any and all frustrations that I may have going on in my life. Fortunately for me, I bake challah on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, which means I get to regularly knead the heck out of dough.
I used to visit my great-grandparents in New Haven, Connecticut. Every Friday Grandma Weller baked fresh challah. I would go into her kitchen and watch with amazement as she kneaded this massive pile of dough and wonder at her patience for baking something that seemed to take all day.
On top of that, Grandma would take pieces of the dough and make these little birds out of them. Nope, I still haven’t figured out how to do that, but I did master how to make challah.
My challah making began early on in my marriage. I got a fabulous recipe from a family member that was sweeter and “cakier” than Grandma’s, and as we all know by now, I am usually about the sweet stuff. Each week I would make challah in a giant plastic bowl, never dreaming that the dough hook was actually something to try out. How could it possibly be the right way to go when Grandma didn’t use it?
It took years (yup, sometimes it takes me a very long time!) to realize that Grandma did not use a mixer because mixers, with enough power to knead dough properly, had not been invented for the home kitchen during her lifetime. Fortunately for me, I am able to take advantage of this wonderful technology.
Fast forward more than two decades and I have challah-making down to a science. I keep the dry yeast jar in the fridge, so first thing in the morning I take that and the eggs out of the refrigerator to bring them up to room temperature. Then start to finish, of the mixing part of challah making, takes a total of 20 minutes, including clean-up.
Around Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, round challahs with raisins are seen everywhere. The circle symbolizes the continuity of the years and raisins are in celebration of a “sweet” new year. My philosophy is that one should have a “sweet” week on a regular basis. Therefore, I will often times add 1 cup of either raisins or miniature chocolate chips when I am mixing the dough.
Another reason that I love this recipe is that it is not temperamental, at least in terms of rising times. When pinched for time, I have been able to produce a wonderful bread with a two hour rise, but have also had days where I could not get back to it for several hours and I still ended up with a challah that was delicious. Why? I have no idea, but I am very thankful for this and am happy to leave it at that.
Going back to the recipe, I can’t remember who in the family gave me the recipe (mother, sister or cousin.) About two years ago, my mom told me that the recipe was not for sharing. That would have been good to know way back when. OOPS.
I explained that this challah recipe had been tweaked a bit from the original and passed through cyberspace more times than I can count. I’m not sure if Mom told her challah friend how very special her challah has become to so many people. If she did, I hope the friend enjoyed the story as much as we enjoy the challah.
|Challah|| || |
- 2 cups (404 grams) warm water, divided
- ¾ cup (164 grams) plus 1 tablespoon (14 grams) sugar, divided
- 4½ teaspoons (16 grams) active dry yeast
- 8 heaping cups (1351 grams) all purpose flour, divided
- 3 eggs, near room temperature, beaten
- ½ cup (110 grams) vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons (15 grams) salt
- 1 cup (145 grams) raisins (optional)
- additional vegetable oil
- additional all purpose flour
- Egg wash:
- 1 egg
- sugar for sprinkling
- For the dough:
- Into ½ cup warm water, add 1 tablespoon sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the yeast and let it proof for about 10 minutes. The mixture will bubble up and go to the top of the mixing glass.
- Lightly oil a large container with a lid, using vegetable oil. Set aside.
- Place 7 heaping cups flour in the bowl of a stand-up mixer. Make a well and place the 3 eggs in it. Add ¾ cup sugar, vegetable oil, salt, 1½ cups warm water, proofed yeast and raisins.
- With the dough hook attachment, mix the ingredients together on low speed. While the mixer is running, gradually add in nearly all of the remaining cup of flour, about 5-7 minutes. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead in remaining flour, keeping the board floured as you work. Place kneaded dough into the greased bowl. Cover and let rise until the dough doubles in size.
- Grease and flour two loaf pans, preferably clay, with vegetable oil and flour. Push the dough down in the middle and fold over and into itself. Divide it into 6 even pieces. Roll the dough between your hands to form long strands. Braid the dough into two loaves, three strands per loaf. Fold the ends under and place one loaf into each pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Beat the egg in a small glass. Brush each loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle sugar over it. Bake the challah at 350° for 40 minutes.
- Turn out of pans immediately onto cooling racks by running a small metal spatula around the edges of the pan and then flipping the pans upside down. Cool sitting upright.
- Betsy's tidbits:
- This is delicious hot, warm or room temperature. When I bake the challah ahead of time, I warm it a bit in the oven before serving. Challah also freezes beautifully.
- Should there be any leftovers try making French Toast using an egg, milk and vanilla mixture. Your family will beg for more!
- Give those you love an extra sweet week by adding 1 cup miniature chocolate chips instead of the raisins. Add them at the same time the eggs, sugar, salt, warm water and yeast is added.
- All stand up mixers are not made the same. If you feel like yours is not up to the task of mixing the dough, do not risk burning out your motor. Mix the dough together by hand.
- The recipe is not temperamental in terms of timing for the long rise. I have been able to produce a wonderful bread with a two hour rise, but have also had days where I could not get back to it for several hours and I still ended up with a challah that was delicious.