I have posted a challah recipe before, this recipe is the same one, except that I have a added a divine, sweet, crumbly topping that is made using the tiny seeds found within the pod of a vanilla bean- in other words, real vanilla. Challah is pretty simple to make, but it is time consuming. The dough must be prepared first and allowed to rise for about 4 hours. Once it has risen, the dough can then be rolled and formed into individual loaves. The loaves must then be left to rise for another hour or two. Finally, the challahs are brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with toppings (sesame seeds, poppy seeds or crumb topping), and then at last they can be baked. Once baked, they may be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in plastic bags and then frozen for up to 6 weeks...but I doubt they will last that long in your freezer- they are hard to resist.
5-7 Challahs, depending on size and shape
5 pound bag of bread flour
4 packets active dry yeast
2 cups of sugar
4 cups warm water
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
3/4 tablespoon salt
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. When your oven reaches that temperature, turn it off. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the yeast, sugar and water. Place that mixture into the warm oven. In a few minutes, the yeast will start bubbling, and form a frothy mixture. In the meantime, place the oil, eggs, honey, and salt in a very large bowl, and mix together. Remove the yeast mixture from the oven, and stir into the egg mixture. Pour half of the bag of flour into the large bowl, and mix using you hands. Add the remaining half, and combine well, using you hands. Once all the flour and liquid are combined, you should form a thick dough that is somewhat sticky and even a little lumpy. Leave the dough in the bowl, and cover with a clean dish towel. Let the dough rest for for 4-6 hours. Once the dough has risen, separate it evenly into tennis ball sized balls.
For braided challahs, roll 3 of the dough balls into 10-inch long "snakes". Braid, (just the way you'd braid hair) and secure the ends by pinching. Continue, using up all the dough balls. Place the braided challahs on parchment-lined baking sheets, and cover with dish towel. Let rise for 2-4 hours.
For "pull-apart"challahs, lightly grease a 9 or 10-inch cake pan. Place one dough ball in the center of the pan, and surrounded with more dough balls, filling the pan as needed. Dough balls should be close, but not touching (they will rise and eventually touch). Cover with a dish towel, and let rise for 2-4 hours.
Preheat oven 350. Meanwhile, prepare the crumb topping. In a medium bowl, place the flour sugar, and oil. Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean open lengthwise. Take the tip of your sharp knife and scrape out the seeds from the inside of both sides of the pod. Place these seeds in the flour mixture. Use your finger to incorporate and from a crumb topping. In a separate small bowl, mix together 2 eggs and a teaspoon of honey. Once the challahs have risen, brush the egg wash over the challahs and sprinkle generously with the crumb topping. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, rotating midway, until golden.
A vanilla bean pod
Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise
Use a sharp knife to scrape out the tiny seeds inside the pod
Add the vanilla bean seeds into the crumb topping
Mix the topping all together
Getting ready to brush egg wash and top with crumb topping
Challahs all ready to bake in the oven
Crumb topping challah!!