My favorite challah recipe - the one that I make over and over again - came from this post by a fellow Jew-by-choice. I love it, and have made some small revisions based on my personal experience and taste.
I like to make this over two nights. Allowing the dough to rise overnight in the fridge adds to the flavor of the finished product.
- 1 and 3/4 cups of warm water
- Two (2) packets of active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2/3 cup olive oil for the bread, some extra for greasing the mixing bowl
- Three (3) eggs, plus one additional egg white for the wash
- One (1) tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup of honey
- Eight to nine (8 - 9) cups of bread flour
- Sesame and/or poppy seeds to sprinkle on top, as desired
- Recommended: A stand mixer
1. Proofing the yeast: Add the sugar and yeast to the warm water. Stir gently. The water breaks down the dry coating on the yeast granules which, when released, eat the sugar, creating carbon dioxide. This will create a nice foam on the surface of the water. This means your yeast is viable. I will post a video I made of this process soon, as it is my favorite part of making bread. Note: You can refrigerate or freeze your active dry yeast to extend its shelf life up to one year.
2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, salt, sugar, olive oil, then honey. Use the same measuring cup for the oil and honey, being sure to measure the oil first. The coating on the measuring cup will ensure the honey pours out easily. Mix the ingredients well.
3. Mix in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough will be pretty sticky. Your hands will get messy. Sorry not sorry.
4. I like to hand-knead the dough in the bowl at this point, adding a little more flour (maybe 1/2 cup). Once all of the flour is absorbed, I continue to knead it until it forms a nice, smooth ball. At this point, grease the bowl with some olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel, and let it rise on the kitchen counter for about two hours. Once it has roughly doubled in size, you can put it in the fridge overnight (or just continue with the recipe, ignoring step 5 below).
5. Take the dough out of the fridge and let rise to room temperature - this will take at least a couple of hours. Once it's ready, hand knead the dough again and let rest for about ten minutes before breaking it for braiding.
BA-RUCH A-TAH A-DO-NOI ELO-HAI-NU ME-LECH HA-O-LAM A-SHER KID-SHA-NU B'MITZ-VO-TAV V'TZI-VA-NU L'HAF-RISH CHAL-LAH
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.
After reciting the blessing, you can cast the sacrificial dough into the oven.
7. Divide the rest of the dough into two equal pieces. Divide each of those into three equal pieces. Roll the three pieces into equal strands, then braid them. Pinch the ends of the strands together and fold them under to make sure the loaves don't split while baking.
8. Brush the loaves with the egg white you reserved for the wash, sprinkle with seeds if using, and let rise for another 30 minutes.
9. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. You will know the loaves are done when they are golden brown on the outside, and sound hollow when you tap them. After they are allowed to cool, you can freeze one for later if you'd like. I like to keep mine in a bread box. It keeps them fresh for several days.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I also welcome feedback in the comments section below.
After what seems like ages of all talk but no action, it’s finally here: Challah Back Kitchen! Yes, I’m doing the damn thing. The nebulous idea for this project had been floating around my head for a long time until, during a recent meeting with my rabbi, we came up with what you see here: A creative platform to join my love of food with my growing love of Judaism.
I began the process of converting to Judaism in high school. Initially, I started studying it as part of an academic exploration of what “religion” could mean to me. From Christianity to Wicca to Buddhism to Islam to Atheism, I tried to learn as much about the various faith traditions as I could. But the more I learned about Judaism, the more the core values of community, social justice, and repairing the world matched my own. They resonated with me on a deeply personal level, and motivated me to convert.
More than a decade later, I found myself living in New York City. I had become an avid baker and was learning (read: taught myself how through many trials and more errors) to bake challah. I had also made the decision to recommit to the conversion process because of all the wonderful experiences I had and people I met in the NYC Jewish community. My studies and love of baking developed simultaneously. Because of this, challah has become an important part of my conversion experience.
As part of the process of conversion, many people pick specific topics, research them, and write reflective essays. That is what this project will be, in part.
However, I want this project to be all of the things: Creative, fun, quirky, and challenging. I will focus on being educational and incorporating spirituality. The goal is to deepen my connection with Judaism and add value to my conversion process. But above all, I want it to be something that will be read by more than just my rabbi and my mother, though I always appreciate their support.
And that’s how we find ourselves in the Challah Back Kitchen. The name for the project was inspired by my dear friend Yasmine, who always asks me to make her some "Hollaback bread."
The current page - Food - will focus on the practical food portion of the project. Similar to the concept of Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia", I will be studying and cooking from Joan Nathan's - the maven of Ashkenazic American Jewish food - classic, "Jewish Cooking in America". I will also supplement that with recipes from the gorgeous "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, for modern Israeli and Sephardic fare. And for a bit of regional flare - because Texas, y'all - selections from "Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South" by Marcie Cohen Ferris.
The next page - Commentary - will be where I bring in elements from Jewish history, tradition, ritual, and law. I want to explore the meaning of food in a Jewish context, past, present, and future.
So, as I continue on this journey, I hope you will follow along and enjoy the adventure. Because what is Judaism without community?