Baking challah is an experience that holds a special place in my heart. In addition to being one of the three mitzvos given specially to women, baking challah also has that good oldfashioned homemaker feel about it. The smell of fresh-baked challah filling your home before Shabbos or Yom Tov
- fresh bakery yeast or equivalent - 3½ oz.
- sugar - 1¼ cups
- warm water - 5 to 5½ cups
- eggs - 3
- oil - 1¼ cups
- high-gluten or bread flour - 5 lb.
- kosher salt - ¼ cup
- Egg Wash -
- egg yolk - 1
- water - 1 tbsp
- Sesame or poppy seeds -
1. Place the yeast, sugar and 3 cups of warm water directly into the mixing bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook. Let sit for 6 minutes or until yeast has proofed.
2. Add the eggs, oil and half of the flour and mix at a slow speed for 20 seconds.
3. Add remaining 2 to 2-½ cups warm water and remaining flour alternatively. Mix for 3 minutes.
4. Add kosher salt and mix for an additional 5 minutes on high speed.
5. Remove from mixer and place in an extra-large food storage bag. Knot it, leaving ample space for the dough to rise. Leave to rise for 1 to 2 hours.
6. Don’t forget hafrashas challah — separating a small amount of dough in fulfillment of the mitzvah.
7. I don’t punch down the dough at all. It automatically falls when removed from the bag and is cut into 5 or 6 pieces. Divide each piece of dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll into long strands, making them thick in the middle and tapering the ends. Braid into loaves and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, not touching each other. Cover and let rise for an additional ½ hour.
8. Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix together egg yolk and water for the egg wash. Paint the challah with the mixture. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.
9. Bake for 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy!
NOTES: Bakery yeast is sold in the bakery. It is cut from larger blocks and measured out for you. It can also be found in some kosher groceries already measured into a 1-pound block, wrapped in white paper without a label. It is often fresher than the commercial pre-packaged cubes. You can use the packaged dry yeast for this recipe too. I measure 1 tablespoon for 1 oz., but every yeast is different.
If you’ve never baked challah before, you’re probably wondering about the variation in the amount of water to add in Step 3. The truth is that there isn’t an exact amount of water because it’s always different. It primarily depends on the type of flour I am using, and even the weather can have an effect. The main thing to remember is that the dough should not stick to the sides of the mixing bowl. If it does, add flour slowly, 2 tablespoons at a time (the most you should add is 6 tablespoons). Alternatively, if you find the dough too thick, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time.