Apr 27 2011

C is for Challah (That’s Good Enough For Moi)

Published by Christine at 9:01 am under Breads

Baking is not my favorite thing to do in the kitchen (I’m more of a savory kinda girl), but bread is an exception. I love the time it takes to make, the delayed gratification, the organic chemistry lab feel of the kitchen during the process, the smell of yeast, the sensual softness of the dough. The satisfaction you get from making your own bread, that most ancient and basic of foods, runs deep and almost primitive. I liken it to being able to saw your own clothes, or to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together; it’s a taste of the frontier, except that in this case, I have modern appliances to do most of the work. My inner Laura Ingalls isn’t that tough.

Today’s recipe is a traditional Jewish bread that is served during the Sabbath. It is akin to a French brioche, but requires somewhat less time to make, and it is not as sweet. What makes a challah special (other than its religious significance to some) is its presentation. It is braided and brushed with an egg wash before baking. It’s wonderful by itself, with some butter or (my favorite) Nutella, and it makes the best French toast the next day. I chose to adapt Mark Bittman’s recipe (from How To Cook Everything) for this post. Even if you’ve never made any bread, you really can’t go wrong with this one.

The only real requirement for making this recipe, other than some time, is a large food processor (about 12 cups). You can also make it in a standing mixer, but make sure the motor is powerful enough, or it will work too hard and might burn out with this heavy dough.





5 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup warm water
2 tsp dry active yeast*
1/4 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp honey or sugar

* If using instant yeast, skip the first step and simply mix the yeast and water along with the flour.

Proof the yeast: whisk it with 1/4 tsp sugar in warm water. Let stand 5 min until bubbly. It is now ready to use.

Mix all dry ingredients in food processor by pulsing briefly. Turn the machine on high. Through the feed tube, add eggs (whole), proofed yeast, milk and sweetener. Continue processing about 45 seconds. The dough should have formed into a slightly sticky ball. If too sticky, add a little more flour and process briefly. If too dry, add 1 Tbsp water and process a few seconds more.

Remove dough, knead briefly and shape into a ball. Place into a well-greased bowl, and let rise approx. 1.5 to 2 hours, until the dough has about doubled in bulk.



Punch down and knead briefly.

When will the kitchen violence end?

Divide the dough in three equal pieces. Shape into balls, cover, and let rest about 20 mn on a floured surface.

Let them rest, and cover them up.

Roll each ball into an 18″ rope. Place ropes on a greased baking sheet. Secure ends by pressing them together and braid the rope as you would hair. Secure and tuck the ends under.

Braided bread

Cover the challah and let rest another 40 min while your oven preheats to 375. When ready, brush with an egg wash (one egg yolk whisked with 2 tsp water) before putting in the oven.

Awash in egg yolk, the challah will get its distinctive gloss.

After about 40 min, remove the challah from the oven. You will know it’s done when the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Let it cool on a wire rack before slicing.

It's hard to wait, isn't it?


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