Challah

14 years ago - #breads

This traditional Jewish Sabbath bread, blessed and served before Friday night dinner, is a sort of butterless brioche. It is particularly good at breakfast time.

Servings: Makes 1 braided loaf

Combine in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes:

  • 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm (105º to 115º F) water

Add:

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt

Mix by hand or on low speed until thoroughly blended. Gradually stir in:

  • 2½ cups bread flour

Knead for about 8 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands or the bowl. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place (75º to 80ºF) until doubled in volume, 1 to 1½ hours. Punch the dough down, knead briefly, and refrigerate covered until it has again nearly doubled in volume (a three-quarter rise is sufficient), 4 to 12 hours. The dough is now ready to be shaped.

Weigh and divide the dough equally into 3 pieces. On an unfloured work surface, roll into balls and let rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 10 minutes. Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Roll each ball into a 13- to 14-inch-long rope, and 1½ inches think and slightly tapered at the ends. Dust the three ropes with rye flour so they will be more distinctly separated. Place the 3 dough ropes side by side and pinch the top ends together. Lift the left dough rope and place it between the right and middle ropes. Lift the right rope and place it between the left and middle ropes, then the left rope between the right and middles ropes and so on until you reach the ends. Tuck both ends of the braid underneath the loaf and set it on the baking sheet. Whisk together and brush over the top of the loaf:

  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt

Loosely cover the braid with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until not quite doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the over to 375ºF. Brush the loaf again with egg wash. If desired, sprinkle with:

  • 1 tablespoon poppy or sesame seeds

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

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Be sure to give yourself a good head start time-wise by starting preparation several hours ahead or even the day before. This traditional bread-like cake originally hails from Poland.