Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sweet Challah

Wow, Challah -  where to start? Challah is a huge topic, and there are entire blogs dedicated to challah making.  Challah is a sweet bread, that is a traditionally served on Shabbos. Many women make it fresh every Friday. Most of you know that homemade challah is delicious, especially fresh out of the oven. I'll tell you a little secret- in the past 7 years, I have never had bakery challah show it's face on our Shabbos table. Not that I am bragging, we just like home made challah so much better! Since it is a messy task to make challah fresh every Friday, I like to make a huge batch every month or so, and freeze it for the next few weeks. We warm it up in the oven on Friday, and it tastes practically fresh! Don't be scared to try making challah- anyone can do it. It just takes some practice. There are many different ways to shape challah, braiding being the most common. Six braids are especially pretty, and I found the following video very helpful in learning how to make a six braid.

If braiding seems too daunting, you can roll 6 even balls of dough and arrange them in a circle with one ball in the middle, in a 9 inch circle pan, and the result is very pretty. 

The following recipe is from my sister-in-law, and after trying a few different recipes, I have to say this one is the winner! 

Sweet Challah  makes 6 large braids
5 lbs all purpose flour ( approximately 12 cups)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2/3 cup oil
4 eggs
3 tablespoons dry instant yeast
3 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Notes before beginning:
1. The temperature of the water is very important for the dough to rise properly. If it is too hot, it will kill the yeast, and if it is too cool, the dough will not rise. The water should feel like bathwater- perfectly lukewarm.
2. Do not try to make the dough in a Kitchen Aid- it will break it! The best mixer to use is either a Magic Mill or a Bosch. If you do not have either of those mixers, you can mix the dough by hand ( I do!) and it will be fine. If you are mixing the dough by hand, be prepared to knead it for at least 10 minutes. The longer you knead the dough, the smoother it will be, producing beautiful challos. 
3. When braiding the challah, make sure to sprinkle the ropes generously with flour- it helps the challah keep it's shape better. I one time heard a challah expert (seriously, she gives classes) say that flour is like a challah's hairspray- it keeps the braid together.

Directions:
 Pour warm water into a large bowl or an 8 quart pot. Add yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, until there is a layer of foam on top from the yeast. Add the flour, sugar, salt, oil, and eggs. Knead for at least 10-15 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour -1/4 cup at a time. Cover with a damp towel, and put it in a warm place to rise. Let it rise for an hour or until it doubles in size. Form challos into braids, and place onto lined baking pan. Cover again with a damp towel, and allow to rise for another hour. Be careful not to move the pans around too much- they can lose their height if they are bumped around. In a small bowl, mix together 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon water. Mix well. This will be your egg wash, and gives the challos a nice shine. After the challos have risen, brush the egg wash on gently with a pastry brush. There are a few options for toppings. The most common are sesame seeds or poppy seeds. For a sweeter challah, the following crumb topping is delicious: 

Crumb Topping:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)
Mix together well until it forms a fine crumb. Sprink over challos after you have applied the egg wash. You can also sprinkle some crumbs on the pans before you put the braids down, and it gives the crust a nice sweet crunch. 

Bake the challah at 375° , 25 minutes for chewy challah, 30 minutes for crunchy challah.

If anyone has any specific questions on making challah, please feel free to leave a comment, and I will do my best to reply.

35 comments:

  1. looks gorgeous!!!

    mommy

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  2. I think I'm changing my challah recipe! Looks heaven. Btw, my friend here took your stroisel recipe and used it... your fame is spreading!

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  3. I always say to myself "second over first to the middle" in a sing song way to keep me on track. Try it you will see it works.

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  4. This looks amazing! I'm ready to pop them in the oven. Just one question: how long and at what temperature should they bake for?

    Thanks for a great blog!

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  5. Wow, good call! Thank you for catching that. Its bake at 375, 25 minutes for chewy challah, and 30 minutes for well done. Thank you! Let me know how they turn out!

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  6. Good Afternoon

    Awesome post, just want to say thanks for the share

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  7. Hi Can'tStop,

    Just wanted to drop a note saying that your recipe is amazing! I dropped my dear sister-in-law's famed challah recipe for this one (didn't tell her yet-shhh!), and that's really saying something. This challah gets such rave reviews from our guests (and my husband, of course), and is very versatile. It can be dressed down (sans crumb topping, with egg wash and poppy/sesame seeds) or up. I even put multi-colored sprinkles on this week for my daughter's birthday. Thanks for another winner!

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  8. I am so glad you like it! We love it too- and there must be something about sisters-in-laws and challah, because I got this recipe from my sister in law!

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  9. nechama, i must say - AMAZING!!!! After a full year of trying sooo many recipes, yours won!! :) we LOVE this challah!!!! thanx so much :)
    chani (glicksman) kupferstein

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  10. Chani- I am so glad you like it! We love it too :)

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  11. hi! any chance you could explain or show how to shape a round challah for rosh hashana? would love to do a round braid...

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  12. Hi Nicki- this should help you out:

    http://cookkosher.com/index.php?option=com_zoo&task=item&item_id=145&Itemid=8

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  13. Did I miss....how many loaves does this make?

    Thanks
    jack

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    Replies
    1. Sorry about that! Its updated now- 6 large braids.

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  14. Don't want to sound dumb, but by braids, is that individual braids, or loaves?

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    Replies
    1. Not dumb at all! I call it a braid, but it really is a loaf.

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  15. Actually, I guess a strand is what I call a braid, so i assume a braid is a loaf? Nope, still confused... :}

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    Replies
    1. Ok, now I see how the number six is throwing you off- it makes six loaves- any shape :)

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    2. To stick my nose in here:

      Each recipe makes 6 loaves (in CSB language, that's a braid) each made of 6 strands, or 4 strands (however you want to braid it.)

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  16. Quite amazing recipe... easy to follow... and I got rave reviews the first time I made this delicious bread! I'm making this bread for Easter Ecumenical worship. Love the blog and thank you for sharing your love of all good things to eat.. Blessings to you..Shalom

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  17. Hi! Was wondering about your kitchen aid comment... if I do it in a 6qt one will it still break?

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    Replies
    1. I would not recommend it- it can definitely strip the gears of a kitchen aid. I would only use a Bosch or a Magic Mill.

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  18. Hi! Was wondering about your kitchen aid comment... if I do it in a 6qt one will it still break?

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  19. Hi, if I wanted to make only half of the recipe, would it be okay if I simply "halfed" the whole recipe the closest I can? would it turn out okay?

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  20. Do i spray the baking pan?

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    Replies
    1. I usually line it with parchment paper, but spraying the pan would work too.

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  21. I was googling streusel challah and your recipe is the only one that doesn't call for margarine...I can make it guilt free now!
    Thanks!

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  22. Hi, you're challah looks super yummy. Last time I made challah it was super dense. Any tips on making the challah fluffy? Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hi Devorah- thank you! Yes, there are a few reasons why your challah could be dense:
      1) Too much flour, very common- when kneading it you should add JUST enough flour so that it is a cohesive ball. It's ok if its still sticky- you can flour your surface when you braid it to make it easier to work wtih.
      2) Not enough kneading- the more kneading the better! I make my dough by hand and try to aim for 10 minutes of kneading. It's tiring but it makes a huge difference on the challah - plus while you knead is a good time to daven :) If you use a machine, you can knead it for closer to 20 minutes- the more you knead it, the better the texture.
      3) The challah did not rise enough. It should rise for a full hour before braiding, if not more, and a full hour after braiding. In the winter, if your house is chilly, it can take closer to 2 hours.


      Good luck I hope it helps!

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  23. Can this be made in a bread machine? If so, how do you modify the instructions? Thanks!

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  24. I'm sorry, I have never tried it in a bread machine but I don't see why it cant.

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