You don’t have to be Jewish to bake challah.
The other day I was shopping at Fairway in Harlem in Manhattan and overheard two young women talking. One one of them said she loved loved loved challah, which she had recently tried, and would like to learn how to bake one.
I couldn’t resist saying something. I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping — they were talking loud enough for everyone around them to hear and I was right next to them at the olive bar. So I excused myself for breaking into their conversation and told the one who loved challah that I was a food writer and had a great recipe. That I would email the recipe if she wanted.
She did. I sent my recipe.
Two days later Rebecca Chan had not only baked two challahs successfully, but was thrilled enough to take this photo. She said the breads were delicious and would make them again.
I was thrilled she had actually tried her hand at challah so quickly.
But when it comes to challah, you just can’t wait.
So, for everyone out there who wants to make homemade challah, here’s my recipe. I suggest baking it a bit longer than Rebecca did — it needs to be a bit darker. But this is a terrific first challah if you ask me.
Kudos Rebecca!!! Keep baking!!
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees; feels slightly warm to touch)
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups flour, approximately
1 tablespoon salt
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees)
poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional
In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. While the yeast is resting, place 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook. Add 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the 1-1/2 cups water. Mix using the dough hook until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and blend in thoroughly. Knead (at medium-high speed) until the dough is smooth and elastic (3-4 minutes). Add more flour as needed to make the dough smooth and soft, but not overly sticky. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Remove the dough to a floured surface. Cut the dough into 3 or 6 pieces depending on whether you are going to make one large or two smaller loaves. Make long strands out of each piece. Braid the strands and seal the ends together by pressing on the dough. Place the bread(s) on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg. Brush the surface with some of the egg. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. While the dough is in the last rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes for one large bread, 22-25 minutes for two smaller breads. They should be firm and golden brown. Makes one large or two smaller challahs
NOTE: you can make the dough in a food processor — cut the recipe in half
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