My husband is Jewish, so when we are at his mother's for dinner on a Friday night, we always have a challah. Often the challah we eat has been made by me, and over the years I've tried many, many recipes searching for the best version, or at least the one my family likes the best. This Rosh Hashana, my mother-in-law wanted a round challah, nothing else would do. After some preliminary searching in local bakeries with no luck, it seemed like the easiest thing to do was make it myself.
I decided to try yet another recipe, and this one was quite different from the breads I've made before. I find it fascinating how seemingly minor changes to a recipe can make so much difference to the outcome. Challah is also known as egg bread, however this recipe has only one egg per loaf in the dough, and then an egg yolk wash for the crust and the bread was noticeably lighter both in color and texture. I was really pleased with this loaf. It was moist and had a beautiful, dense crumb. I didn't get any of the leftover bread, but I expect that it will make excellent toast, especially with some homemade peach jam.
This recipe, which came from the website Food52, makes two loaves of bread, but I cut the recipe in half and just made one loaf. The recipe gives directions for using a mixer, but I did the whole thing by hand. Kneading bread dough is one of my favorite cooking tasks. I find it very contemplative and soothing for the ten minutes it takes. You get into a bit of a rhythm and then you can feel the dough change texture as you work.
I've made a fair number of loaves of bread over the years and now I have a better sense of just when the dough is ready. Some people say it should feel like a baby's bottom, others say it should feel like the inside of your thigh. Your choice, I guess. When you are letting the bread rise, choose a warm place with no drafts. I actually have a bread proofing setting on my oven which keeps the temperature at 100F and is perfect, especially in the winter when there isn't any sunny spot to sit the bowl. The recipe says let it rise for an hour, but mine took closer to two hours to double in size.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2-3 hours
Yield: 2 loaves
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 8 cups all-purpose flour
- Sprinkling poppy or sesame seeds
- Put water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a mixer, and mix with a paddle.
- Add two of the eggs, and the oil, and mix.
- Switch the paddle to a dough hook. Add flour and salt, and mix.
- Put dough on a floured board and knead. Then spray a large bowl with nonstick spray, and leave dough in bowl, covered, for at least one hour.
- Punch dough down, knead again on a floured board. Take half the dough and cut into six even pieces, and roll out each piece into a roll about 12 inches long. Arrange rolls side by side on the board, pinched together at the top, and braid: Move the furthest roll on the right over 2 rolls, then move the 2nd furthest on the left all the way to the far right. Move the furthest roll on the left over 2 rolls, then move the 2nd furthest on the right all the way to the far left. Repeat until the whole loaf is braided. Then either tuck the ends underneath, or twist into a circle to make a round challah. Repeat with the remaining dough to make a second loaf. Place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Brush loaves with the yolk of your remaining egg. Then either sprinkle seeds directly onto the loaf, or dip one finger in the egg wash, then in the seeds, and apply directly to the loaf.
- Let loaves sit for 30 minutes, then put in a 350-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes