Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Challah



I. Love. Challah.

Challah is a honey-egg bread, shaped into a 3 or 4 strand (or more to be really fancy) braid. Except on Rosh Hashanah, where the dough is coiled into a round shape to represent the life cycle.

A good challah does not need any butter, jam or anything else on it. In fact, storage instructions are not included because there are rarely any leftovers to store.

The original recipe, given to me years ago by a fellow Hadassah member, only makes 1 loaf because I usually make it in my stand mixer with the dough hook, but the bowl can only hold up to 5 cups of flour (after that the dough climbs up the dough hook in a futile attempt to escape). When I first bought this particular stand mixer, I had previously burned out 2 others of lesser quality, and didn't want to have to replace a third one. My current mixer is now over 17 years old and shows no sign of pooping out. When I win the lottery, I'll buy the larger version.

*Update* I will be using this recipe to make challah rolls for Thanksgiving.

Challah
Yield:  One loaf or 12-14 rolls

1 package rapid-rise yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 cup warm water, plus 1 Tbl. water

Separate one of the eggs into two tiny bowls or cups, and set the bowl with the yolk aside.
Wisk together 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt. Make a well in the center, and add oil, 1 whole egg and the egg white, honey and 1 cup water.
On a floured surface, knead for 10 minutes. As you knead, add up to another cup of  flour, a 1/4 cup at a time, until dough is no longer sticky.
Place in oiled bowl, turning dough to coat. Cover with a clean towel and let rest in warm dark place for 15 minutes.
Push fist into dough to deflate, then remove dough from bowl. Roll out into 4 ropes. Press the 4 ends together, then braid the ropes, pressing together the other ends to seal.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Cover loosely with towel and let rise in warm dark place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl mix the remaining yolk with the tablespoon of water. With pastry brush, cover challah with egg-water mixture.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and cool completely on cooling rack.

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