Challah is our favorite bread, and the only one we make homemade.
First, I must give a couple disclaimers. We actually acquired the recipe from our amazing friend, Rachel Jessee, so the recipe is not my original. Next elephant, no, we are not Jewish. People ask us that all the time because we love Jewish culture and are learning the feasts, etc. We have been fortunate to have some amazing Jewish friends in our lives over the years that have inspired us to dig a little deeper and learn some of the amazing culture and traditions.
Challah is a traditional Jewish bread served with the weekend Shabot, or Sabbath meal. Typically, you would serve two challahs with the Friday evening meal at sundown, which marks the beginning of twenty-four hours of rest.
We have made it a family tradition to light the two candles and serve challah at our sabbath meal, which is Saturday night these days. More info on Shabot can be found online, or this website "Judaism 101" if you are interested.
Every city we had lived in before usually had a decent bakery or bread store so I never really had to bake it myself. Last year when we moved, I just had a heck of a time finding challah, of course its at Trader Joes, but theirs doesn't really taste traditional to us.
Since I had never made bread before, (married thirteen years, yes, and never made bread!) I was a little nervous, but the recipe was very easy to follow. You mix the ingredients, let it rise a couple hours, braid it up, and toss it in. Not as difficult as I thought. So I hope you will give it a try. This recipe is meant to be split in half and make two, for the tradition of serving two loaves.
Additional note, because I don't eat dairy or sugar, I always use canola oil for butter and Agave for the sugar, and it comes out VERY good and moist!
Enjoy! - Gina
Important Note: Amount of Times to Let Dough Rise
The dough should be left to rise twice in this particular recipe. Once, after initially preparing dough and once after dough is shaped. (raising once is fine, if is has raised 2 hrs. or more though, I’ve tried it a ton of ways!)
Tip: If desired, dried (dehydrated then rehydrated) apples that are diced into small pieces can be added to the dough instead of the raisins, or fresh diced apples may also be used.
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 packages (1/2 oz./4 1/2 tsp./14g) instant yeast or bread yeast
7 to 8 cups bread flour (approximately)
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz./8 tbsp./113g) butter or margarine, melted (or 1/2 cup vegetable oil may be used)
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks (That is a total of 5 yolks & 3 whites)
1 1/4 cups golden raisins, plumped *(See below on How to Plump Raisins, I do this first)
Egg Wash: 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten and mixed with 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. water
1. In a large mixing bowl, stir the 1 tsp. sugar into the 1 1/2 cups warm water. Sprinkle in yeast and stir well; let stand until frothy or foamy, about 10 minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in 7 cups of the flour, saffron (if using) and salt. Add honey, the 1/3 cup sugar, melted butter (or vegetable oil or melted margarine, if using), whole eggs and egg yolks; stir until dough forms.
2. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding enough of the remaining 1 cup flour as necessary to prevent sticking (you may need to add more flour if your dough is still too sticky. Add in one tablspoon at a time until the dough is cohesive). Place dough in a greased glass or ceramic bowl, turning to grease dough all over. Cover bowl with greased plastic wrap or a warm damp kitchen towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in size and indentation remains when dough is poked with 2 fingers, about one hour or so. Punch down dough, transfer dough to work surface, let rest for 10 minutes, then knead in raisins (if using).
3. To Make Round Crown Loaf:
Roll out dough into a 30-inch (76 cm) long rope. Holding one end in place, wind remaining rope around end to form a fairly tight spiral that is slightly higher in the center of dough. Transfer dough to a greased rimmed baking sheet.
4. To Make a 4 rope Braided Loaf:
Divide dough into quarters; roll each quarter into 18-inch (45 cm) long ropes. Place side by side on a greased rimmed baking sheet; pinch ropes together at one end. Starting at pinched end, move second rope from left over rope on its right. Move far right rope over 2 ropes on left. Move far left rope over 2 ropes on right. Repeat until braid is complete; tuck ends under braid.
5. Cover crown loaf or braid loaf with plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in size, about one hour.
6. Egg Wash:
Stir egg yolk with 1 tbsp. water; brush over loaf (s).
Bake in center of 350°F/180°C oven until deep golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on rack for 15 minutes before slicing.
YIELD: Makes 1 GIGANTIC loaf or 2 large loaves.
How to Plump Raisins
Raisins are sometimes soaked in a liquid to plump them (make them soft and moist) before cooking and baking. This may be necessary if raisins are dry and hard. Water is generally used, but fruit juice, brandy or other liquids can be used to add flavor. To plump raisins in water for recipe use, cover them with very warm water and soak for 3 to 5 minutes. Or, place raisins in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the raisins stand for 5 minutes. Drain off the liquid and use the raisins as directed in the recipe. To plump and flavor raisins in other liquids, soak them at room temperature for several hours or overnight. Drain them before using.
(I like to add a lot of cinnamon & some agave to make it really gooey. Then I fill the center of four strips of dough, roll them back together, then braid. This is for a more “dessert” bread. If we are having company for dinner, I will make one loaf plain and then one “dessert” loaf.)
Cinnamon Apple Raisin Challah-- Hot out of the oven!