I’m not usually a “ritual” person. I like change and find routine boring. Except when it comes to making Challah on Friday. I’m not religiously observant by any stretch of the imagination. But there is something that happens when I start my day making dough. It just feels good, and it does set the day apart from the rest of the week. I have come across several good recipes, but this one (posted previously) is my go- to favourite. If it is hard to handle when you are mixing it, just let it sit for 15 – 20 minutes and then go back to it. It will have “relaxed” (hopefully, so will you).
This makes 2 HUGE breads, or 3 – 4 normal size loaves.
3 tbs. active dry yeast (instant or regular)
2 ¼ cups warm water, divided
¾ tsp. sugar
5+1 eggs (room temp. if possible)
1 1/3(ish) cups clover or other light honey ( or you can substitute part with maple syrup)
¾ cup canola oil
2 ¼ tsp. salt
10-12 cups All-purpose flour ( I use organic unbleached, sometimes some bread flour…it really isn’t a finicky recipe)
In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 ½ cups of the water, and sugar. Let sit 10 minutes and make sure it proofs.
In a very large bowl beat the 5 eggs with the honey. Add remaining ¾ cups of water, oil and salt. Add the yeast mixture and mix well.
Add 5 cups of the flour and start mixer. (can add raisins now – 3 cups or so). Keep adding flour until you have a shaggy mess. 2 options – keep adding flour and mix until you get a dough that is pretty stiff (almost done here) OR, you can let it sit now for 20 minutes – it makes the final knead really easy.
If you are hand kneading, do it now. Add enough flour to get a stiff but not dry dough. Think of “baby’s bum” as what you want here. If you are machine kneading only, keep adding flour carefully until you get the right texture.
Let rise in a clean bowl, covered with damp towel for 2 – 4 hours. It is forgiving. OR let rise in fridge overnight. If you refrigerate, it needs 4 – 6 hours to rise the next day)
When dough has risen, punch down and turn onto board. Give it a good knead for 3-5 minutes Divide dough into a multiple of 4. (this recipe makes 3 -4-5 loaves) Roll each lump into a ball, then pull the ball onto itself, making a seam at the bottom (to develop surface tension). Let balls rest 10 minutes at least (cover if they seem like they will dry out)
Roll balls into sets of 4 ropes. Let ropes rest a few minutes (covered). Add flour to roll the ropes if necessary to keep from sticking, but you still want the dough to feel soft.
Do a 4 rope braid:
(Pinch ropes together. Number them 1,2,3,4. Put 1 between 2and 3, put 3 where 1 was then take 4 and put it between 3 and 2, and take 2 and put it where 4 was. Continue and tuck the ends under the loaf. If you need to see it, there are you tube videos.
Put braided challahs on a cookie sheet with parchment. Cover with damp towel (or do egg wash, but don’t sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds) and let rise 45 mins – 1.5 hours. Again, it is really forgiving. Just make sure it is puffy and doesn’t spring much when you press it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do the egg wash (maybe for a second time) and sprinkle seeds – sesame or poppy, or my kids’ fave, pasteurized or sparkle sugar.
Bake for approx. 45 minutes. You may need to cover loosely with foil if it browns too fast. Test for doneness by tapping bottom of bread and listening for hollow sound.
I just wish I could somehow post the aroma.
Oh, and you can use the same recipe to make a KILLER bubka.