There is something very zen and therapy-like about baking bread. Watching the ingredients bubble, patiently waiting for the dough to rise, the kneading and braiding…. we love it all. We don’t bake very often, but every time we do, it is such an enjoyable experience. For our readers that don’t know, challah is an egg bread. It’s a fluffy and rich dough that is traditionally braided before baking. Overachievers can braid it in a multitude of ways, but an old fashioned three strand braid is a great introduction to making challah.
Recipes like this are great to have in your back pocket. You can gift a loaf has a hostess gift over the holidays, make stupidly delicious sandwiches with it, and turn it into decadent french toast. We wanted to include it in our Hanukkah menu for anyone who celebrates and needs a go-to recipe, particularly for nights when Hanukkah falls on Shabbat.
- 3 packages of dry yeast
- 3 cups warm water, divided into ½ cup and 2 cups
- 1 tbs sugar
- 8 cups flour
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 2 tbs coarse salt
- 5 eggs
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 1 tsp water
- Challah toppings (poppy or sesame seeds)
- Combine 1/2 cup of warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Mix together and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Put the flour into your mixing bowl. Make a well into the center of the flour. Pour in the yeast mixture and let stand until the mixture is bubbly. Add 4 eggs, oil, salt and sugar into the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together with a bread hook. Gradually add the remaining 2 ½ cups of water. Keep an eye on the dough as you add the water. You want the dough to be able to easily knead into a ball. You may not have to add all of the water.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a floured service until it is smooth and satiny. Let the dough rise for one hour in a greased bowl in a warm place (in a warmed, but off, oven) covered with a towel or cheesecloth.
- Knead the dough again on a floured surface for five minutes and let the dough rise again until it is double in size (approximately one hour).
- Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into four even pieces for one large challah or two halves for two medium challahs.
- For the large challah: Roll three of the four pieces into long logs – approximately one inch circumference. Braid the dough making sure to tightly pinch each end. Use the fourth piece of dough and divide into three equal pieces. Create a small challah out of the three pieces using the same methodology as the large challah. Place the small challah on top of large challah and pinch the ends of the small challah and large challah together.
- For the medium challah: divide each half of the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into long logs – approximately one inch circumference. Braid the dough, making sure to tightly pinch each end. Do this for each half of the dough so that you have two equal sized challahs.
- Place the challah(s) on a baking sheet and let rise in a warm area for an hour.
- Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the last egg and the 1 tsp water in a small bowl and scramble the egg. Once the challah is done with its final rise, brush the egg over the challah. Do this twice so that the challah is double coated in the egg wash. Sprinkle the poppy or sesame seeds on top of the challah.
- Bake the challah at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes (35 minutes total). Remove the challah from the oven. You will know the challah is fully cooked if you flip it over and tap on the bottom – it will sound hollow.