Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum
When packing for a business trip I love to start a large bread for my husband to eat while I'm away. Challah is one of his favorites and since it's one of mine as well, I usually manage to eat a few slices myself before slicing, wrapping and freezing the rest. It is traditional for Jewish New Year's to shape the challah in rounds. It is easiest to start by making a 3 braid challah and then coil it around itself and tuck the end underneath.
1/2 cup water
3 cups (424 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (Harvest King)
2 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 (11 grams) salt
2 1/2 large eggs (120 grams/4.2 ounces weighed without shells)
3 tablespoons (60 grams/1 1/2 ounces) honey
1/4 cup corn oil
1/2 tablespoon vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon of egg from above ingredient listing, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon water
Optional: 1 tablespoon (9 grams) poppy seeds)
Special Equipment: An insulated baking sheet or two baking sheets, one on-top of the other, lined with parchment. A baking stone or baking sheet
Set aside 1 1/2 tablespoons of the eggs for the glaze.
Mix the dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast; then the salt.
In the mixer bowl, place the water, eggs, honey, corn oil and vinegar. Add the flour and with the dough hook, mix on low until moistened. On medium (#4 Kitchen Aid) beat for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and shiny. Add flour if necessary until it almost clears the bowl The dough should be just barely tacky. (The dough should weigh about 30.2 ounces / 856 grams.) Form the dough into a ball.
Let the dough rise: Place the dough into a 2 quart dough rising container or bowl, greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover the container with a lid, plastic wrap or a damp towel. With a piece of tape mark on the side of the container approximately where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise, ideally at 75 to 80 °F., until it has doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to 2 quarts). Gently deflate the dough by pushing it down, give it 2 business letter turns and allow to rise a second time. (The second rising takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
Flatten the dough gently by pressing down on it, so as not to activate the gluten, making it stretchy. If desired, for best flavor development, the dough now can be placed in a larger container or wrapped loosely with plastic wrap, placed in a 1 gallon plastic bag, and refrigerated overnight -- in which case give it a turn or two first. Allow it to sit a room temperature for 20 minutes after dividing in 4 pieces and preshaping into logs.
Shape* the dough, glaze it, and let it rise: Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (214 to 217 grams each). Shape them into little logs, cover them with proofer or greased plastic wrap—no need to rest unless refrigerated overnight as they get more gluten development. Start by rolling one piece of dough on the counter into as long rope, 13 inches. (Keep the rest covered while working with one-at-a-time.) Taper both ends of each dough rope to about 4 inches down so that they are narrower than the rest of the dough rope. (Allow the ropes to rest covered if stretchy.)
Starting from one tapered end, (middle, if doing a 3 strand braid) braid the strands. Pull the dough more as you come to the ends of the braid so that it comes to more of a point. Pinch the strands together at the end of the braid.
Don't allow too much bulge in the middle, i.e. braid tightly so that it doesn't spread when rising and baking. Push the ends together a little so that the loaf is about 14 inches long by 4 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches high. Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with glaze and cover. Let rise to 15 x 5 x 3 1/4 inches high—about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven: 45 minutes before baking preheat the oven to 325°F. Have the oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.
Glaze and bake the challah. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the challah all over with the egg glaze, going well into the crevices of the braid. Sprinkle the top with poppy seeds if desired, tilting the pan slightly to have access to the sides.
Quickly but gently set the bread onto the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn it around and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes (tent loosely with a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil after 30 minutes of baking time or if the top is getting too brown). Leave on parchment as very tender. The bread should be deep-golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 180°F.)
Cool the challah on a rack.
Yield: Makes: A 16 inch by 6 inch by 4 inch high, 4 braid loaf
1 pound 14.4ounces / 861 grams
* It is traditional for Jewish New Year's to shape the challah in rounds. It is easiest to start by making a 3 braid challah and then coil it around itself and tuck the end underneath.
KosherEye Note: Rose also bakes this recipe using a starter. For the recipe, click here.
Recipes: Bread, Challah, Yeast, Parve, Kosher