Every Friday night, when the sun goes down, Shabbat starts. As soon as I light the Shabbat candles, an overwhelming feeling of calm and comfort comes over me. There is something about the soft glow of candles that draws me in and soothes me. The smell of Shabbat dinner, the glow of the candles and the calm and rest associated with not working, leaving the worldly stress behind and spending time with family and friends-needless to say, Shabbat is a special time.
Making challah (challot, plural) is a special experience for me. For years now I have been obsessed with making the perfect challah and using it as my signature Shabbat challah. While it is a process, I think after making more than a few loaves, I’ve managed to find a technique that produces a good challah that is beautiful and delicious. Below is a recipe that I have adapted from a basic challah recipe. It is sweeter bread, so if you do not like it as sweet, reduce the honey. Also, my challah is a three strand braided challah, which basically means I am a beginner challah braid-er. For an amazing guide on how to braid different types of challot please click on this link which will take you to the Shiksa in the Kitchen: Challah Braiding!
If you can’t relate to anything I am talking about-don’t sweat! Challah is enjoyed by many Jews and non Jews alike! It’s a delicious bread and can be used to make sandwiches or my personal favorite, french toast. Challah French Toast=amazing!
Basic Sweet Challah (makes 2 challot):
2.5 cups of warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup honey + 1 tablespoon (for egg wash)
4 tablespoons mild oil (vegetable or canola)
8 cups all purpose flour
3 eggs (two for dough, one for egg wash)
1 tablespoon salt
Sesame seeds (optional-but recommended!)
1. Combine water and sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over the warm water and let it proof-about 10 minutes.
2. Combine 3/4 cup honey, oil and salt with the water and whisk. Add flour gradually until combined. Knead the dough until it is manageable, but still slightly sticky (not completely smooth).
3. Cover with a wet, clean cloth and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour to 1.5 hours, punching down a few times every 20 minutes. (Punch gently!)
4. After the dough has doubled in size, punch down a few more times and turn over onto a clean, floured surface. Divide the dough and knead each piece for a few minutes until manageable.
5. Take each dough piece and divide into 3 strands (or 6!) and braid. Check out a handy, dandy guide via a Google search if you don’t know how!
6. Put each loaf on a greased baking sheet and cover with a warm cloth. Let rise for 45 minutes-1 hour. Some time during the rising process, you will need to preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
7. Beat remaining egg and one tablespoon honey. Brush egg wash on the tops and sides of each loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Toss in the oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.