All of that changed, however, in between my first and second year of medical school. (I realize that is quite a dramatic statement, but the bread is really that good). I went to visit a good friend of mine (the same one who inspired the Indian pantry series) and her mother just happened to be making challah for Shabbat at that time. She very patiently taught us how to make challah, and from that day on, I’ve been making this challah at least once a month. The recipe is simple, straightforward, and absolutely delicious!
Challah is essentially an enriched dough, similar to a brioche. It is made with flour, sugar, honey, eggs, and a nice helping of butter. The dough starts out a bit slack and sticky but with some kneading on a floured counter, it becomes smooth, soft, and elastic. It will spring back to shape when pushed on gently. After the kneading is completed, the challah is rolled into ropes and braided. For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the challah is braided into a circle to symbolize the cyclical nature of the year. It is a wonderful bread that I feel is wonderful every day of the week and at any time of the year. I highly suggest making it soon so you can add this incredible bread to your baking arsenal! If any of the challah escapes consumption on the first day, please make french toast with it. Your tastebuds and tummy will thank you!
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: 3 small loaves, or 2 medium loaves.||Total:|
The best challah recipe ever, subtly sweet, wonderful texture, and absolutely perfect in every way!
- For proofing the yeast:
- 1½ cups very warm water (105-115 Fahrenheit)
- 3½ tsp instant yeast
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1Tbsp flour
- For the dough:
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 6-7 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled
- For egg wash:
- 1 egg
- Proof the yeast:
- Measure out 1½ cups of warm water in a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the warm water. Add the flour and whisk to blend. The yeast is proofed once it begins to foam and has a slight film on top, about 5 minutes. This step isn't actually necessary with instant yeast, but I find that it adds a slightly more delicious yeasty flavor to the finished product.
- Make the dough:
- Place 6 cups of flour in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment. Add the salt and sugar and stir to blend. Slowly drizzle in the proofed yeast mixture while stirring to blend. When the dough starts to become shaggy, replace the flat beater with the dough hook. Add the beaten eggs and stir to blend. Add the honey and the butter and knead with the dough hook. At this point, the dough will likely seem slack and sticky. Add flour in small increments until the dough begins to pull away from the sides and forms a ball.
- At this point, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or counter. Knead the dough, adding flour as necessary so that the dough does not stick to the counter, you'll probably add about a ½ cup of flour. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. When you press down on the dough, it will spring back into shape.
- Place the dough into a large, buttered bowl and cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until at least doubled. On a dry day, it is preferable to use plastic wrap otherwise a dry crust may form on the bread. The dough rise usually takes 2 hours, but it is okay to let it rise for a bit longer.
- Once the dough has fully risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured board or counter, and pat it down thoroughly making sure that no large air bubbles remain. Tear or cut the dough in half for two loaves, in thirds for three smaller loaves. Cut each part into three pieces; roll those smaller pieces into “snakes” and braid. To make a round loaf, form the braid into a circle and pinch together the ends to seal. (If you don't plan on baking all of the loaves at the same time, you can wrap the extra loaves in plastic wrap, place in a ziploc bag and freeze. When you want to eventually bake the bread, simply place in the fridge overnight, take the bread out in the morning, allow it to reach room temperature and bake the bread.)
- Place the bread on a greased baking sheet, cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rise again for another hour to an hour and a half.
- While the bread is rising for a second time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once the bread is fully risen, remove the covering, and beat the reserved egg in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the loaf with the egg wash.
- Place the bread in oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, removed the bread from the oven, lower the temperature to 350, and brush for a second time with the egg wash. Bake for 15-20 more minutes. The challah will be done when it is nicely browned on top and when thumping the bottom of the bread gently causes a nice hollow sound. Let the bread cool for a bit and devour it!
Adapted from Debra's recipe, just slighty