Now that Passover is over, it's time for challah once again. When it comes to cooking, I'm all about quick and easy, but I've got to say, challah is an exception to the rule. There is nothing that makes a home smell more luscious and heavenly than the smell of challah baking in the oven.
People always ask: "Is it easy? Does it take all day?"
Yes, it's easy. And yes, it does take all day.
But so worth it. (At least once in a while!)
And, for those of you who are superstitious, it's been said that baking challah brings good luck, and answers your prayers...
Also, I can't write this post without giving full credit to my friend Jeanne (who got the recipe from her friend Ayelet) full credit for teaching me how to make the best challah. Week after week, she'd come over to my apartment at 8am and show me how to make it- her hands are magical. And no matter what, her challah always comes out better than mine!
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
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, seperate 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. In a small bowl, mix together 2 eggs and a teaspoon of honey. Brush over the challahs. Sprinkle with whatever it is that you like best: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic powder, cinnamon, za'atar... Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, rotating midway, until golden. The amazing smell will convince you to do it all over again next week!
"Pull-apart" challah sprinkled with za'atar seasoning
(a Middle Eastern blend of sesame seeds, sumac, basil, thyme, oregano)