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My Grandma’s Challah

(recipe, Ronnie Fein)


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Introduction

This recipe makes a very large bread, which I always need. To make a standard-size challah, cut the recipe in half; you'll need to cut the baking time, too, down to about 22 to 25 minutes. But I wouldn’t. Because if you have leftovers, challah is the very best bread you can use to make French toast. You can make this dough in a food processor, but to do so, you’ll have to halve the recipe.

Ingredients

  1. 2 packages active dry yeast
  2. ½ cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
  3. ½ cup sugar
  4. 8 to 8½ cups all-purpose flour
  5. 1 Tbsp. salt
  6. 5 large eggs
  7. 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  8. 1½ cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)
  9. 1 tsp. water
  10. Poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

Steps

  1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast, warm water, ½ teaspoon of the sugar, and a pinch of flour. Stir, set aside, and let rest for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 7½ cups flour with the remaining sugar and the salt. In a small bowl, mix 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil, and the lukewarm water. Add to the flour mixture. Now add the yeast mixture.
  3. Blend the ingredients thoroughly. Using the kneading hook, knead for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary to make sure the dough is not sticky.
  4. Cover the bowl of dough and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1½ hours, or until it has doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, cover the bowl, and let it rise again for about 30 minutes, or until doubled.
  5. Remove the dough to a floured surface. Cut the dough in six equal pieces. Make long strands out of the pieces. Braid the strands (see Note, below) and press the ends to seal them completely. Place the braided dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  6. Beat the last egg with the teaspoon of water. Brush this over the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with the seeds if desired. Let rise again for 30 minutes.
  7. While the challah is rising for the final time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the challah for about 30 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown.

Note

Braiding a six-strand challah: Place the six strands in front of you and gather them at the top end. Press down and seal the six strands at the top so it looks like a lump of dough with six strands coming down. Looking at the strands, proceed as follows: # Place the far-right strand all the way over to the left # Place the former far-left strand all the way over to the right # Place the now far-left strand into the middle # Place the second strand from the right to the far left # Place the now far-right strand into the middle # Place the second from left to far right # Now place the far left into the middle # Repeat steps 4 through 7 — and you're done! Here's a video link, so you can watch how this is done.