Holiday Challah

December 9, 2012

No Hanukkah celebration is complete without a freshly baked loaf of challah.  This traditional Jewish bread is rich and absolutely delicious.  This recipe makes 2 loaves which may or may not be enough for your family to enjoy.  If there are any leftovers, you can transform challah into French toast or bread pudding.

Challah

 

Ingredients:

9 cups unbleached white flour
2 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter OR olive oil
1 tablespoon egg whisked with 1 water

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to proof, watching for the yeast to foam and bubble on top of the water.

Whisk the 4 eggs and the butter or oil into the water mixture.

Add the flour to the liquid 1 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly to prevent lumps from forming.

When the dough becomes to thick for whisking, switch to mixing with a long spoon until dough can be turned out for kneading.

Lightly flour your counter top or bread board and knead dough thoroughly, adding small amounts of flour as needed to prevent sticking, until the dough is smooth and elastic, springing back when you press a divot into it with your finger.

Lightly oil a large bowl and roll the dough to oil all surfaces. Cover with a slightly damp towel and set aside to rise until double, usually about two hours.

Knead dough to remove large air bubbles, then separate into two equal portions. Each portion will form 1 full loaf.

For each loaf: separate dough into 5 equal portions. Set 1 portion aside to become a narrow top braid. Roll the remaining 4 portions with your hands on the counter top, gently moving your hands apart to elongate the dough into strands about 20 inches long.

Lay all 4 strands next to each other in front of you. Starting with the strand on the right, lay it over the next strand, under the second, and over the third. Repeat this process, always starting on the right, until the strands are completely braided. Tuck the ends under and pinch to prevent unraveling.

Lay the loaf on a lightly oiled baking sheet, pressing it together to shorten it a bit while doing so. The reason for this is so that during rising, the dough will not pull apart or break. You must give it room to expand without splitting.

Now, separate the 5th portion of dough into 3 strands, rolling them out the same way but slightly longer than the 4 main strands. Working right over center, then left over center, form a continuous 3 stranded braid.

Lay the narrow braid on top of the main loaf, tucking the ends under the end of the main loaf to hold it in place.

Repeat with the dough set aside for the second loaf.

Rise loaves at least 30 minutes, until doubled in size.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake loaves for 25 minutes.

Brush heavily with prepared egg wash. Increase temperature to 375 degrees and bake another 20 minutes, brushing with egg twice more during baking.

Remove from baking sheet and place on a towel, covered with a towel to cool.

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