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Challah Bread

I've eaten a lot of bread over my life, but one of my favorites has to be this challah bread. Challah is a traditional Jewish bread, always made with eggs and always braided. This recipe, from a cookbook by Joan Nathan, makes the softest challah you'll ever eat! It's pretty easy to make, and it's best served with honey and salted butter.

Makes 2-3 loaves of challah

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons active or instant dried yeast

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water, divided

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 4 eggs, divided

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 7-9 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the warm water along with the yeast and sugar. Stir gently, then set aside to bloom for 10 minutes.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of warm water, the oil, the honey, the salt, and 3 of the eggs. Stir or whisk until well combined. Add 1 cup of flour to the mixture. This will keep the yeast from touching the salt, which could kill it. Before stirring the flour in, add in the now-frothy yeast mixture, and stir everything together. It doesn't have to be evenly combined yet.

  3. Add in another 4-5 cups of flour, and stir until a shaggy dough forms. Move the dough to a well-floured work surface and add another cup of flour. Knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Move the dough to a well-greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel for an hour, or until doubled in size.

  4. Lightly flour your work surface and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.

  5. Divide half the dough into 3 equal pieces. This is for a simple 3-part braid. If you're more advanced or want a challenge, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces to make a 4-part braided challah loaf. 

  6. Roll each piece out about 16 inches. Bunch one of the ends of each dough rope together on the lined baking tray. Fold the left dough piece over the center dough piece. Then, fold the right dough piece over the new center dough piece. Continue until you have a braided loaf. If you're making regular challah, you can go right on to step 8! If you're making Rosh Hashanah challah, check out step 7.

  7. For round Rosh Hashanah challah, gently roll the braided dough around the center, then tuck the end under the loaf. And there you go, you have a lovely, round Rosh Hashanah challah! 

  8. Whether it's round or straight, your braided loaf needs to rest again. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel and allow the unbaked loaf to rise another 30 minutes. 

  9. Preheat the oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius. 

  10. Beat the remaining egg. Brush the loaf with the egg. This is important, as it will ensure the loaf gets perfectly golden brown. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, rotating halfway through.

  11. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and eating. Then, enjoy with butter and honey while warm! 

Why is challah round only some of the time?

Round challah is made and eat specifically during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Stories vary as to why it's round, but a common one is that the roundness of the loaf represents the cycle of life and the seasons. Round challah is served with honey.  

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