Challah is one of the special foods that elevates our Shabbos and distinguishes it from the rest of the week. It is one of the three beautiful Mitzvahs specially given to women. Making 5 pounds of challah, though, can be a very intimidating and daunting task. Not, however, if you have the right recipe. This recipe is really simple, done by hand, and incredibly delicious.
Everyone who I’ve ever given this recipe to has had tremendous success – in making delicious Challah and in the Blessings that making Challah brings into the home. Jewish sources relate that when a Jewish woman makes challah she brings special blessing into her home, especially in the form of parnasah (money, income). For more information about the spiritual aspects of making and ‘taking’ challah refer to this beautiful article.
5lb bag of flour (sifted)
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 generous TBSP of dry yeast
3/4 cup of oil
4 cups of warm water
6 eggs (4 for dough and 2 for topping)
2 tbsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F.
Pour the flour into a very large bowl and make a well in the center. Place dry yeast into the center well. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 cup of warm water and a handful of the flour into the center well. Let it bubble up for 5 minutes. The dry yeast can be mixed into the flour mixture itself without hurting the dough in any way but I like to put it in the center and watch it bubble up.
Add 2 tbsps of salt around the edges of flour
Add 1 cup of sugar to the flour
Add 3/4 cup of oil (vegetable or canola) to the middle
Add 4 beaten eggs to the middle
Add 3 cups warm water to the middle
With your two clean hands begin to mix all the ingredients together. It will start out very wet and then get thicker and dryer as you begin to knead. I usually knead for 5 – 10 minutes. Keep kneading until its desired consistency. It is ready when no more of the flour mixture sticks to your fingers or to the sides of the bowl. If it is still sticky add more flour a few tablespoons at a time until desired consistency. Once it reaches desired consistency I give it a few good punches, spray some oil on top and cover it to rise for 30 minutes.
After the 1st 30 minutes of rising, punch it down again, spray it with oil and let it rise for another 30 mins.
After the second 30 minutes of rising, punch it down again, spray with oil and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
After it has been rising for 1 1/2 hours with 2 punch downs in between, you are ready to ‘take’ the Challah, make your Bracha and shape your challahs.
I usually make 5 –6 large 3 braided challahs because its simple and pretty. To make 3 braided shapes, cut your dough into 12 or 18 even strips that resemble thick ropes and braid three strips together at a time. Place into pans that are well oiled or lined with parchment paper.
After shaping the dough, mix together 2 egg yolks and 1 egg white and gently brush the mixture on top of the dough to give it a nice dark shine. You can sprinkle sesame and or poppy seeds for decoration at this point.
Let the shaped dough rise, covered, for another 30 minutes. That’s a total now of 2 hours rising time from the beginning.
After the shaped dough rises for 1/2 hour place in the oven at 350 for 30 – 40 minutes. My challahs are thick and rise high so I find that they need 40 minutes while the rolls need 25 minutes. When ready let them cool on a cooling rack. I make my challahs on Thursday night and freeze them in air tight large ziploc bags as soon as they cool off. I warm them up before serving them on Friday night and they are out of this world delicious.
There is a special shaped challah called a Shalom Bayis Challah that is easy and lots of fun to make. It is supposed to be a special segulah (omen) for peace between husband and wife in the home. Here’s how to shape the gorgeous shalom bayis challah.
Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet
Make 10 long strips of dough like thick ropes. Roll between your fingers until they look long and thin. Take six strips. Lay 3 strips vertically and 3 strips horizontally and begin to create a tic tac toe look or basket weaving look – its a one strip over and one strip under pattern. Braid the four corners that are left at the ends and connect each corner to the other corner.
Take another two long strips and twist them together and wrap it around the outside of the formed challah like a shield. It will fit half way around. Take the last two strips and twist them together to wrap around the last outside half of the formed challah. You now have a very large and gorgeous shalom bayit challah.
I recently made this Shalom Bayit Challah for a Sheva Bracha. The tablescapes for this party were gorgeous and are featured on The Jewish Hostess here.
Shabbat Shalom & Bitayavon!