Friday, April 3, 2015

Challah Bread


At Christmas time, I was gifted my grandmother's old recipe book-a ledger filled with newspaper and magazine clippings, some going as far back as the 1950s. It was fascinating to leaf through the pages, seeing what was popular at the time in my grandma's kitchen. Soon I'll get some photos and show you all. I'm not sure where Grandma would've found some of the ingredients in those recipes since she was way out on the farm, but it's pretty clear she was adventurous! Everything from Chinese to Indian, Greek and even French cuisines were tucked away in her scrapbook, carefully cut out and glued onto the pages.

One thing grandma really excelled at was bread. Homemade buns were a staple in her kitchen and little better was one warm from the oven, slathered in butter. My mom learned how to make buns from her and when I was married, I asked Mom to teach me too. The joke in our house is I must've inherited the bread making gene. There is no bread maker here; I'm the kind of person who loves to get a feel for the bread with my fingers. I'd rather knead it right on my counter, working the dough by hand with the sweet smell of yeast wafting through the kitchen.

This challah recipe is something I had in my own binder full of clip outs, from a Today's Parent magazine back when Kevin was only 3 years old. For some reason I never did try it until this weekend for a French toast recipe I'm whipping up for BC eggs. Not only is this a super easy recipe, I love that the rise times aren't that long. The loaves look impressive once you bake them, and you'll have two baguette sized ones to eat, serve with dinner, or make your own French toast with.

Challah is a traditional Jewish bread often served during Passover. It is dairy free and is wonderfully tender, yet substantial so that it makes amazing French toast. We couldn't even resist it's call as soon as it came from the oven. As soon as it cooled, one of the loaves was immediately sliced into thick pieces and slathered with butter.


3 1/2-4 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp instant rise yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sesame seeds or poppy seeds


1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, stir together 2 cups flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and vegetable oil. Still whisking, add the water a little at a time so you don't 'cook' your eggs. With the motor running on the electric mixer, pour the water and oil mixture into the flour and yeast.

3. Continue to mix until smooth. Change from the paddle attachment to a dough hook. With the motor running, continue to add up to another 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough becomes stiff. Turn it out onto the counter and knead for a few minutes until it's smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a large ball.

challah dough

4. Lightly coat a large bowl with vegetable oil, and then set the ball of dough in the bowl, turning the dough so it's coated all over with oil. Cover with cling film and set in a cold oven with the light on.

A light in the oven will generate enough heat to make the dough rise and the oven will protect it from any drafts. Let the dough rise for 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size.

5.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and punch down the dough to get ride of excess air bubbles. Divide the dough into two portions. Set one aside. Then divide one of the balls of dough into three equal portions.

6. Stretch and shape your small balls of dough into three 20 inch long ropes of dough. You want them all to be similar thicknesses. Line them all up together and pinch them all together at one end.

challah braid 2

7. Braid the ropes together tightly. When you get to the end, pinch the loose pieces together and tuck them underneath, forming a long braid.

Challah braid

8. Repeat with the other ball of dough and place them both on a well greased baking sheet. Cover them with a clean tea towel and put them back in a cold oven with the light turned on.

challah braid 3

9. Let the challah rise another 30 minutes until it's almost doubled in size again, before removing the pan from the oven.

10. Turn the oven on to 375 F. While it's heating up, brush the dough with a lightly beaten egg and sprinkle them well with either poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until it's a dark golden brown and sounds hollow on the bottom when tapped.


11. Remove the bread from the pan to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Slice, slather in butter, and eat!

Adapted from Today's Parent
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