I have always wanted to get into making bread. Something about the whole process from the first bubble volcano of yeast, to the mush and squoosh of the dough to the final mouth-watering smell that fills the whole apartment just makes me want to take it on.
And, of course, from my viewpoint as a New York Jew, challah is basically the be all and end all when it comes to bread. After trying out a whole bunch of recipes that didn't quite hit the mark, I finally found a recipe that I will actually incorporate into my repertoire on Hadassah Sabo Milner's blog In the Pink which came to her from fellow blogger Suzannah (Shoshana) Raff .
Even though there are a lot of steps, it's so easy to do that my 2 year old daughter and 5 year old son were able to help me every step of the way…particularly kneading the massive ball of dough! Since camp is over for the summer, and school isn't starting until mid-September, I have a feeling that they are going to want to do this every week.
One caveat, since it is a pretty massive recipe, you either have to be prepared to eat a whole lot of bread, have people lined up to take some off your hands or clear out plenty of freezer space! I made about 6 decent sized loaves and 3 smaller ones with this recipe…but how many loaves you get depends on how big or small you choose to make them 🙂
5 lbs all-purpose flour (I guesstimated 15 cups and it worked out perfectly)
1 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
2 packets active dry yeast (about 4 tsp)
1 cup oil (I used Canola)
4 cups warm water
2 tbsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Pour flour into a large bowl (I used the bowl of my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer) and make a well in the center.
3. Add yeast, 1 tbsp sugar and 1 cup warm water into the center well. Watch the ensuing mini-volcano for about 5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle salt around the edges of the flour–keeping it away from the well.
5. Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup oil and 3 lightly beaten eggs to the well. Mix thoroughly, either using the dough hook on the mixer and/or your hands–making sure to get all of the ingredients worked in. I let my kids stick their hands in and do the first mix, and then finished it with the dough hook. If you take that route,you will have a nice round glop of dough hanging on to the hook which will let you know that it is done.
6. Knead/continue to run mixer for about 10 more minutes until the dough is no longer super sticky. Let rise for 1/2 hour. (I let mine rise under a large clean kitchen bowl, and told my kids that it was resting…)
7. Punch down dough, knead for another 10 minutes and let it rise for another 1/2 hour. (repeat nap time for dough under bowl…)
**If you are an observant Jew, or want the whole traditional challah experince, the time to 'take challah' is after this second rising. Taking challah is basically removing a portion of dough, saying a blessing and either burning or throwing away the removed piece.**
8. Divide the challah into as many lumps of dough as you want loaves or rolls, and braid your bread. Let braids rise for another 1/2 hour.
9. Make an egg wash out of your remaining egg. Crack your egg into a small bowl and beat egg well with a splash or two of water.
10. Brush risen loaves with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt (or even colored crystalized sugar!) and bake for 30-40 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to rotate your loaves once or twice during baking so that the bread on the top rack and the bread on the bottom rack get equal love from the oven. Challah is done when golden brown and when you get a nice thump sound when you gently bang on the bottom of a loaf.