I love challah. Really, I love most breads, but there’s just something about the yeasty, slightly sweet, eggy deliciousness of challah that sets it apart. Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to find at the grocery store. And don’t even think about asking someone where the challah is; they look at you as if you have a tentacled space alien crawling out of your left nostril.
So I decided to make it myself.
I have opined before about the utter disaster that a lot of online recipes are, particularly ones that involve yeast. (For the record, yeast should NEVER be placed in anything but lukewarm liquid, and you need to feed it some sugar for it to play nice!) But this time, my Google Machine found a recipe that seemed rather simple and had nothing but rave reviews, so I gave it a whirl. I am planning on buying a treadmill soon, and that’s probably a good thing, because this challah is so easy and so amazingly good that I’d run the risk of becoming morbidly obese but for the treadmill.
The original recipe can be found here. The bones of it are good, but I found the directions to be unnecessarily cumbersome, particularly calling for mise en place–which this recipe certainly doesn’t require. Here’s how I did it:
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 packets yeast
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 7 cups flour, divided
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1 egg, beaten
- Sea salt, if desired (or you could use poppy or sesame seeds, or simply leave plain)
Add the 1 tbsp of sugar and the yeast to the lukewarm water and gently mix. Let the yeast dissolve for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the 1/2 cup of sugar, the salt, and 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer (you can do this by hand or use your paddle). Add the dissolved yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and blend well (I did this with my paddle on low setting). Then add the egg and oil and mix well (again, I used the paddle). Slowly add the remaining 3 1/2 cups of flour, switching to the dough hook when the dough gets too thick for the paddle. Knead the dough with the dough hook for 7-8 minutes, until the dough becomes elastic and bounces back when pressed in with your finger.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead in a tiny bit more flour, just until the dough is not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and place the ball in an large bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Lightly spray the dough ball as well. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise (I like to heat my oven to the lowest temperature while I’m prepping the dough, then turn the oven off and place the dough in the warmed oven to rise). Let the dough rise for two hours, punching the dough down five or six times every 20 minutes.
Now it’s time to form the loaves. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and work in just a tiny bit more flour until the dough is not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and cut the ball in half with a sharp knife. Set one half aside. Cut the other half into three equal pieces. Form each piece into a rope. Braid the three pieces together to form the loaf, pinching the ends under. Repeat with the other half to form the second loaf.
Spray two cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray and place each loaf on its own cookie sheet. Cover each loaf with a tea towel and place the loaves in a warm, draft free place to rise for a half hour.
Once the loaves are done rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, placing one rack at the bottom of the oven and one rack toward the top. Glaze each loaf with the beaten egg. I used a sea salt grinder to sprinkle each loaf with sea salt because I love sea salt, but you can use sesame seeds or poppy seeds or nothing at all, whatever your heart desires. Place the loaves on their own racks and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the loaves top to bottom and front to back and bake for another 12 minutes. And voila! Challah!
Now, the best part of making your own challah is the other things you can make with challah. Like french toast (zomg YUM). Or, another pick from my favorite cookbook, bread pudding:
So go forth, and holla for challah!