October 10, 2020

WFLA: Challah!

challah recipe

my challah recipe is 14 years in the making. i started with one recipe when i was 18 and tweaked it and tweaked it until i achieved a dough that was light and fluffy and, most importantly, adaptable. add in a little more honey, no problem. want to go with savory toppings, sure. maybe something indulgent like stuffing it with chocolate chips and a sweet crumb topping, go for it! the dough is versatile and easy to work with. and that, my friends, is why i chose to begin this book, probably the most important professional task i’ve taken on thus far, with this recipe. challah, one of the three mitzvos granted specifically to women, is an extremely holy and beautiful commandment. it can easily feel daunting and intimidating. i get it. so i created this recipe to overcome that: to help make it approachable, doable, and, most of all, to make it a mitzvah that we are blessed to be able to do

just a little bit more accessible!

makes 6 medium or 4 large challahs

3 heaping Tbsp dry yeast

3⁄4 cup sugar

4 cups warm water

1 cup oil

2 eggs

3⁄4-1 cup sugar (depending on how

sweet you want your challah to be)

2 Tbsp honey (optional)

1 Tbsp vanilla (trust me)

1 (5 lb) bag flour (or 2 (1 kg) bags + 3⁄4 cup flour)

2 Tbsp kosher salt

1 egg + 2 yolks, lightly beaten

In a very large bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and warm water. Set aside to allow yeast to bloom for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a second bowl, combine oil, eggs, sugar, honey (if using), and

vanilla.

Mix well.

When yeast mixture is very bubbly, pour in oil mixture; stir to combine. Add a little less than half the flour to the bowl.
Using a spoon, mix the flour into the liquid very well.
Mix for 2-3 minutes to help the gluten start to develop.

Add salt; mix till incorporated.

Reserve 1 cup flour in case the dough will be too sticky; add the remaining flour. (Remember, you can always add flour but you can’t take it out!)
Mix with a spoon until it becomes too difficult to stir.

Pour dough out onto your work surface. No need to flour the surface. Knead for 10 minutes, working in more flour as needed.

Once dough is smooth and elastic, place back into the bowl.
Pour a little bit of oil into your hand and rub all over the dough.
Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on dough; cover the bowl with a towel.

Allow to rise until it has at least doubled in size.
Remove plastic wrap and punch down the dough.
Replace plastic wrap and let dough rise again.
(You can repeat this step as many times as you need until you are ready to braid the dough.)

Divide dough into 4-6 sections, depending on how many and what size challahs you would like to make.
Cut each section into 4-6 parts; roll each into a strand. Alternatively, wind each section around itself to form round challahs.

Braid the strands, place onto a baking sheet or into baking pans, and cover with a towel.
Let challahs rise for 45 minutes to an hour. (Don’t skip this step.)

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. (For round challahs, heat oven temperature to 340°F / 175°C.)

Brush each challah with beaten egg; add toppings as you like.
Bake for 25-45 minutes until challahs are deeply golden and baked through. Remove pans from the oven; allow challahs to cool for 5 minutes.
Transfer challahs to a cooling rack; cool completely.

I like to wrap my challahs individually in foil.

If I make them on Friday, I leave out what I need for Shabbos, but if I make them on another day, even Thursday, I freeze them.

to thaw

Remove from freezer a few hours before serving.

Place wrapped challah on the plata (hot plate) or in the oven to reheat with the rest of your food.

Serve warm and enjoy!

tips + tricks

Use a 4 cup measuring cup that is also marked with a 3⁄4 cup measurement. After you pour in the water, measure your oil and add the rest of your ingredients to the cup. No need to dirty another utensil!

The more you knead the dough, the smoother and more elastic it will become. Be patient. If, after 7 or 8 minutes of kneading, the dough feels very dry or too sticky, add a bit more water or flour.

To prevent dough from drying out, make sure it is completely covered with the plastic wrap.

I like to let my dough rise a few times, which results in a fluffier challah. Let it rise completely, punch it down, and then let it rise again. Do this at least once, and up to three or four times!

Topping Ideas

Egg wash and a sprinkle of sugar.

Egg wash and minced garlic, parsley, and chili flakes.

Egg wash and everything spice.

Roasted garlic, or garlic confit on the bottom. (Place roasted garlic cloves into a greased challah pan, top with formed challah; brush with egg wash and sprinkle with salt and paprika. Bake as usual. The garlic bakes into the bottom of the dough and it is heavenly!)

Egg wash followed by crumb topping: In a bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 11⁄2 cups sugar, 1⁄4 tsp kosher salt, 1⁄8 tsp cinnamon, and scant 1⁄2 cup canola oil to form crumbs. If it’s too dry, add oil, little by little, until desired texture is reached.

For my favorite challah ever,

place 1 cup golden sautéed onions (page 22) and 1 cup lightly golden sautéed garlic into a greased and parchment lined challah pan (don’t drain off the oil; add that into the pan also!). Place braided uncooked challah onto onions and garlic. Rise, egg, and bake as usual. Serve hot and enjoy!

Credit line: Excerpted from Peas Love and Carrots by Danielle Renov. Copyright 2020 by ArtScroll Mesorah Publications, photos by Moshe Wulliger. Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. All rights reserved.

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