Thursday, May 15, 2014

Challah Bread

A friend of mine has lately been studying the history and traditions of Judaism and has taken to making Challah (pronounced Hol-lah) Bread - the rich, honey-sweet bread that Jews eat on Friday evening with their Sabbath meal.  She gifted us with a loaf, and it was very popular with my crew so I requested the recipe.  I've included her recipe below which I tried a week or so ago.  Though I've included the full instructions, I actually used the dough cycle on my bread machine to mix, knead and raise the dough successfully and picked up in the recipe at the point of dividing the dough in half.

Challah Bread (Makes two braided loaves.)

1 1/4 C. warm water
1/2 tabl. active dry yeast
1/4 C. honey
2 tabl. good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 egg (plus another 1 for brushing the loaf before baking)
1/2 tabl. salt
4 C. unbleached all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water.  Beat in honey, oil, 1 egg and salt.  Add the flour a cup at a time, beating well after each addition.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic.  (This is a soft, slightly sticky dough.)  Return dough to clean bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. 

Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured board.  Divide in half and knead each half for a few minutes.  Divide each half into 3 pieces and roll into long snakes about 1 1/2" in diameter.  Lay 2 pieces in the form of an "X" with the 3rd piece laid vertically between the two.  Braid each side together starting from the middle.  Pinch ends together.  Repeat with other half.  Place braids on greased baking trays.  Cover with greased plastic wrap.  Let rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375.  Beat one egg and brush a generous amount over each loaf (taking care not to knock the air out of them!).  Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped. 

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