“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
With the arrival of Chanukah, it kicks off my challah baking spree.
I LOVE the way baking challah fills our home with it’s inviting, tempting fragrance.
Challah can be frustrating and a big fat pain, if you fight the yeast.
There’s usually 2 types of bakers… those that do yeast and those that don’t. If you don’t, no fear, the key to yeast is warm but not too hot for it to be happy, multiply and make pretty fluffy bread.
Challah may seem intimidating with it’s beautiful golden fluffy braid.
Don’t let egg bread talk to you like that… You totally got this!
The first time I made it many many years ago, it tasted excellent but looked more like something an elephant left behind. With each braid you’ll find your stride and before long could make this in your sleep.
Challah is a major turn off to many because it takes muscles. You HAVE to turn it out and kneed the hell out of it. This recipe makes 2 braided loaves but when I make it I usually double the recipe at least. Challah makes the most amazing french toast the next day if it isn’t eaten or given as gifts first. Since you’re going to have your hands in the dough, you might as well make a little extra to enjoy for your labors… really, it’s not much extra work that way but eh, I have a lot of bodies that are like vultures when they know it’s about to come out of the oven. 😉
I have to make extra if I want a bite.
My Handsome Prince has a knack for eating out the inside of a challah, leaving the beautiful golden crust looking untouched.
He taught this through example to the kiddos.
See… I blame you for this one My Prince! 😉
Let me tell you how much I want to sell them when I go to serve a challah, only to find that the exoskeleton is all that remains.
We are going to need:
3 Heavy Dish Towels
I really like William Sonoma dish towels for baking because they wash so well but are also the sizes I need, thick, sturdy multi use towels that see to out perform all others. That’s my two cents but you don’t need to make a new purchase to make some awesome challah! Put them on the list for later…
2 Large Bowls
One bowl will need to be greased and set aside, the other we will mix our dough in. I grease my bowl lightly with the oil I am using in the recipe.
1 3/4 Cups Warm Water
6 1/2- 7 Cups of Flour ( I use the regular white flour. I have done a half wheat, half white but honestly I’m not stuffing my face with challah for the health benefits)
1/2 Tablespoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dry Active Yeast
1/2 Cup Oil
( I like to use hemp seed oil because it gives it a nutty flavor and protein boost… but when I say that out loud people think I’m interpreting the Adam Sandler Chanukah song a little to literally. 😉 Feel free to use plain old veggie oil or what ever you like, I won’t judge.)
1/2 Cup Honey
1 3/4 Cup Warm Water- not hot but almost.
I can stand to touch the water with my wrist but any warmer and I’d not be happy kinda temperature. Nice How’d ya like that explanation? When you’ve figured out where I’ve gone let’s make some challah.
Whisk the warm water, yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar together until the yeast has become one with your sugar water.
Yeast likes to gobble up sugar so it should be very happy with you and ready to move forward.
Right before I mix in the rest, I switch to a greased favorite spoon. When I say grease, I mean most of the way up the handle too please. You have to do so much mixing, use one that you feel confident about and is comfy to grip.
Go ahead and add in the honey, then mix, oil, then mix, eggs, mixing again and then 3 cups of flour… mix mix mix and then add about a 1/2 a cup of flour in as you mix until you have added the remaining 3 1/2 cups of flour in.
The dough should be trying to stick to the spoon and it’s self instead of the edge of the bowl. It’s ready to knead.
Clear a space that you can turn out the dough onto a floured flat surface to kneed the heck out of it.
** Hint: You will be working with this for the better part of 10 minutes which doesn’t sound like much but by the time it’s done you’re going to feel the burn baby. Do yourself a favor from the beginning: WEAR AN APRON… sexy if possible… you WILL wear flour. Make sure you have your hair pulled back before your hands go into the dough… it’ll drive you nuts otherwise. Turn out the dough to kneed on a surface that is waist level so you can use your upper body instead of just the powers of the upper arms. You’ll be naturally more comfortable and it won’t wipe you out.
I toss about 1 cup of flour out onto my surface of choice and then kneed the dough with greased hands for 7-8 minutes or until the dough becomes incredibly smooth and stretchy.
Grease a large bowl and toss that beautiful dough right on into it, turning it over so that the whole ball of dough has a nice little covering of what you used to grease your bowl with. Cover this bad boy with a thick dish towel and let it rise in a warm, not hot location for 1 hour.
My kitchen has a bad cross draft so I start the washer and dryer and lock my dough into the laundry room to rise. 🙂 After an hour, remove the dish towel from that rising dough.
Oh, so pretty.
Now picture someone that has really pee’d in your Wheaties on that smooth dough and punch them in the face… I mean punch down the dough, cover and then let it rise again in that toasty little area.
30 minutes later, it should have risen above your vicious attack and will be ready to become the challah you recognize in the stores. I use parchment paper to cover 2 cookie sheets. Divide the dough into 2. Plop each piece onto your parchment. Take each dough pile and divide it into 3 roughly equal pieces of dough. Roll each piece of dough with your hands into a roughly 12″ rope. How long it is is not as important as trying to create 3 equal sizes ropes of dough.
Just like braiding a little girl’s hair… take the 3 ropes of dough and braid them together gently. Tuck the end under and pinch it on both ends. Repeat with the second set of dough ropes.
When my kids we’re little I’d hide a raisin in one challah end every night and that person would get and extra prize, extra chocolate gelt, etc. Cover both beautiful loaves of braided awesomeness with a dish towel and pop them back in that toasty warm place to rise again for another hour. I know, I know… you’re getting sick of this waiting process but I’ll be worth it. Just before the hour is up pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Brush that pretty risen challah with one egg that has been beaten along the top to create that nice golden crisp pro look. Into the oven for 40 minutes! Ta- DA!
Can you see the difference where I missed a large part of the end of my challah when applying the beaten egg.
Don’t be like me. Pay attention and liberally apply that beaten egg wash with your pastry brush or even your hand if you must but that is what will produce that beautiful golden sheen!
Hey, someone had to be the example of what NOT to do. 😉
You don’t have to have a Bubbe to make better challah than the local bakery!
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Challah is a tradition that I am grateful for.
When I make this with my kids, they get far more than a treasured old recipe.
We share memories, make new ones and connect with the traditions of our loved ones.
They can make it just as well as I, as it should be. I am thrilled that it’s another special something we share
When I give you a challah, know how much you are loved and thought of… because now you know all the love that goes into this sweet wonderful bread.
It’s the Food Pushers way of giving hugs and saying I love you.
It is time consuming but it is worth every last minute and flex of your pecks.
Happy Holidays to you my friends!
Pass the challah before my hubby gets it,