There's nothing quite like the aroma of bread baking in the oven, and challah is one of the simplest breads to bake at home. If you've never eaten challah before, it has a taste and texture similar to brioche. Both contain eggs and are slightly sweet. Butter is added to the brioche dough, vegetable oil to the challah. Perhaps you're thinking the process of making bread at home is long and laborious, or that you need to be a master baker to pull this off, but I'm here to tell you that you are wrong. It's actually quite simple to do and your mixer does all the work. If you can spare an hour of active time and 2-1/2 hours for the rising, you'll be rewarded with 2 golden loaves of incredible tasting bread to serve, or make into the best french toast or bread pudding ever, and a house that smells like heaven! Here's how I make it.
You'll need two pieces of equipment: an inexpensive yeast thermometer and a KitchenAid mixer with both a paddle and a dough hook attachment. If you don't own a KitchenAid, you can mix the dough together with a wooden spoon and then knead it by hand, but the mixer makes this job quick and effortless.
Over the years I've tried several recipes for challah, but my new favorite is Joan Nathan's,"The Ultimate Challah". The flavor and texture of the loaves are wonderful. I've stayed true to the original recipe for the most part, only substituting honey for the sugar called for in the recipe.
How to make Challah
recipe slightly adapted by Joan Nathan from The Jewish Holiday Baker
Makes 2 loaves
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast ( 1 scant T.)
- 1-3/4 cups water 110-115F
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs, plus 1 large egg for brushing on the formed loaves
- 5 cups bread flour ( I use King Arthur)
- 2- 3 cups all purpose flour ( I use King Arthur)
- 1 T. salt
- Poppy seeds for sprinkling
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the honey and the oil and beat on medium until mixed. Beat in 4 of the eggs, one at a time, then gradually add the bread flour, 2 cups of the all purpose flour, and the salt. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 5 minutes until smooth, adding more flour if necessary. The dough should not be too sticky or too stiff.
Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a large oiled bowl. Flip the dough over so the top is oiled and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let is rest in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour until almost doubled in size.
After it has risen, remove it from the bowl and punch it down to it's original size. Return it to the bowl, cover it again, and let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes more. If you have to go out, let the dough rise slowly in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, then bring it to room temperature to continue.
Braiding and Baking:
Using the tutorial above, form the dough into two round loaves. Place the loaves on an oiled baking sheet and allow to rise another hour uncovered. Preheat the oven to 400F.
15 minutes before baking, beat the remaining egg and brush it gently over the loaves using a pastry brush. 5 minutes later, lightly brush them again. Sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds and let dry for a few minutes.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes, then REDUCE the temperature to 375F and bake for about 30 minutes more. The loaves should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove and cool on a rack.
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