It’s the eve of shabbat! Which means it is time to start thinking about making that challah for Friday night. The recipe I use only takes about 3 1/2 hours to make, but if you want you can let the dough sit overnight which gives the bread a bit of a deeper flavor.
For those of you who don’t know, Challah is a traditional Jewish bread eaten at sundown on Friday night when Jews celebrate shabbat, the start of the day of rest (which is Saturday).
When I was growing up my family would try to save part of the Challah on shabbat so we could make french toast with it the next morning. It didn’t always work, but when it did the next morning was glorious. Challah, if you’re not aware, is the best bread to make french toast with, it’s thick and spongy so it soaks up the egg batter, but still stays just dry enough that it’s not a soaked mess.
This recipe has been adopted from the cookbook Jewish Cooking In America by Joan Nathan, I got this recipe from my mom who uses more of a lot of ingredients than the cookbook calls for. This recipe makes two regular sized loves, or one really huge one.
3 packets (or 6 3/4 tsp) yeast
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
5-6 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/4 vegetable oil
Handful of sesame or poppy seeds for decoration
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in lukewarm water. Whisk oil into yeast/water mixture and then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time and add the salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.)
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth (or knead it in the bowl, if it’s big enough). Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150°F then turned off.
Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12” long and 1-1/2” 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 what is now the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2” in between.
Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour in refrigerator if preferred.
To bake, preheat oven to 375°F and brush loaves again. (If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.) Then dip your index finger in the egg wash, then into poppy or sesame seeds and then onto a mound of bread. Continue until bread is decorated with seeds.
Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool loaves on a rack.
Total Time: About 3 and half hours
The photo above does not show the traditional braiding, this is only 3 braids instead of the traditional 6. I was not making this for shabbat so I decided to just do 3.
One of my housemates let me use his camera.