Saturday, February 28, 2009

Challah Bread

I'm not Jewish, but when I was in grad school, my two Jewish housemates made challah every Friday. Thus, a love affair with this delicious bread was born. I lost their original recipe, so this is one I've made over the years, culled from several different sources. This uses more sugar and honey than usual, but I like it sweet. You can decrease the amount if you prefer.

3-4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
3 TB vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tsp yeast
pinch of salt
4 TB sugar
4 TB honey
1 egg plus water for egg wash
sesame seeds or poppyseeds (optional)

1) Put water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl. Let yeast dissolve. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir to combine. Let mixture set for 15 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly.

2) Mix in oil, 2 eggs, salt, and honey. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix until the dough is no longer sticky-- the amount of flour varies, but you will use 3-4 cups. I do this in a Kitchenaid mixer, but you can do this by hand as well. If you are mixing by hand, turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead until elastic and smooth.

3) Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise until dough is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough and briefly knead out the bubbles.

4) Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each section between your hands until you get ropes of equal size and shape. They should be about 12 inches long.

5) Lay the ropes side by side on a lightly oiled baking sheet, and then pinch the tops together. Braid the loaf, and then tuck under the end pieces. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.

6) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat one egg and add a little water to make a thin egg wash. Brush the bread with the egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired. Bake bread for 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.

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