No matter how many variations of challah I invent, I always make sure I have this challah in my freezer. The recipe has evolved over the years, but the original one I started with came in a welcome basket from my shul (synagogue), Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, MD, when we joined fifteen years ago. It is a soft, sweet, stringy challah, and for some reason, even if its shape looks a little funny going into the oven, some kind of miracle happens inside and it always comes out looking gorgeous.
- 2 envelopes dry yeast (½ ounce total)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- ½ cup canola or vegetable oil, plus 1 teaspoon for greasing bowl
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¾ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
- 1 cup boiling water
- ½ cup cold water
- 3 large eggs
- 6½ - 7 cups bread flour
- In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in 1/3 cup warm water and mix in a teaspoon of sugar. Let sit until thick and foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Pour oil, salt and ¾ cup sugar into a large bowl. Mix with a whisk. Add the boiling water and whisk again to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the cold water and mix again. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, reserving 1 tablespoon to brush on top of the loaves later, and add to the oil mixture.
- When the yeast mixture is thick and bubbly, add to the bowl with the oil mixture and stir. Add 6 cups of the flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each. Place dough on a floured surface and add the last cup of flour, ¼ cup at a time, kneading the flour in until smooth. You may not use all of the flour--just use enough until you can rub your hand across the loaf and it is no longer sticky. Shape dough into a large ball. Place the reserved teaspoon oil in a large clean bowl and rub around surfaces with your hands. Set the dough in the bowl, and rub your oiled hands around it. Cover with a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for one hour. Shape as desired. (Click here for ideas and instructions.) Place on a baking sheet and let rise another 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush the top and sides of challah with the reserved egg mixed with 1 to 2 teaspoons water. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until golden, rotating pans halfway through baking. Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely. If not eating that day, wrap in aluminum foil and freeze. Remove from freezer three hours before serving, thaw and warm in the oven, covered with foil, until it feels hot and soft.