No Seriously. We’re going Jewish for this post.
Here’s the deal. Everyone may think that Chanukah is the most important Jewish holiday. Well everyone is wrong. Please, it’s about a group of people who kept the light going for eight days instead of one. (actually the story is pretty kick butt. Look it up. OR speed things up and listen to this song)
Regardless. The high holidays, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur (that day you fast and pray that God doesn’t have bad things in store for you for the next year) are significantly more important. Although while everyone else is fasting, my family hikes. And talks about food all day. And does not fast. I think it’s a fantastic tradition. At the end of the day? Challah.
So what is it? Just the most soft, squishy, ever so slightly sweet braided egg bread. Its almost the Jewish version of Portuguese sweet bread or French brioche. sometimes it has raisins in it. It’s extremely satisfying with just a bit of butter, but probably makes the best French toast you’ll ever had.
Challah comes in a normal straight loaf, or a circular loaf which is eaten around the high holidays. Circle – new year - life – get it?
Does this differ from normal bread making? Kinda. The richness of the bread comes from eggs and oil. Really making this bread is no different from most, but there are a few more ingredients. I also suggest one slow rise in the fridge to get a more developed (read: delicious) flavor. That just means more foresight in your baking (or skipping this step). Watch out! This one also takes THREE rises (so have even more foresight!) Also, if you knead the S#*t out of the bread, it will rise like a beast. Pro tip. See pictures for proof
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (who else?)
Makes two decent sized loaves
- 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons or 3/8 ounces or 11 grams
- 1 tablespoon (13 grams) plus 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
- 5 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) table salt
- 8 to 8 1/2 cups (1000 to 1063 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup raisins (about 70 grams) per challah, (optional)
- Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling. (optional)
1. In a large bowl (REALLY LARGE), dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
2. mix in oil , and beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. Mix until dough begins to come together.
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead knead knead until smooth and elasticy. Form a ball and put it in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour. (note: either of these rises can be in the fridge. Allow about 8 or so hours? I think I just left mine in the fridge overnight)
4. If using, knead the raisins into the challah, before forming the loaves.
5. Here’s the challenging part – braiding. To make a 6-braid challah, take half the dough and split into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. (I had Kai read this to me while doing it. It made things A LOT easier)
For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, simply twist into a circle, pinching ends together.
5. Place on a cookie sheet for the final rise (about one hour). Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. At this point, you may freeze the loaves as is until later. It works, I tried it.
6. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
7. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Don’t over bake! Challah is totally better on the doughy side than the…bleh dry side. Cool loaves on a rack.
Bake it. Be Jewish for a day. Make French toast afterwards.