Emily’s Challah (#ChashtagChallah)
About a year ago, I came up with a goal for myself: to participate in a Shabbat dinner every week, just like I did growing up, but to spend them all with friends.
I now have regular invites for dinner, but they all come with a catch: I have to bring the homemade challah.
My plan worked! Sort of.
- ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 cup warm water, 100–110 degrees (not hotter!)
- 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
- ½ cup oil (vegetable, olive, coconut)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs plus 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
- 3½–4 cups bread flour plus more for surface
- Optional Additions
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ cup apple/fruit preserves mixed with 2–3 tablespoons flour
- ¾ cup mini chocolate chips
- ¾ cup currants or small raisins
- 2/3 cup apple, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
- Sesame seeds or poppy seeds
- Dissolve 1 teaspoon honey in 1 cup warm water, sprinkle yeast on top and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir to dissolve.
- Combine yeast-water mixture with oil, remaining honey, salt, eggs (and cinnamon and/or fruit preserves with additional flour if using) and half of the flour in stand mixer with dough hook. Beat for 1 minute on low to combine. Stir in remaining flour. Dough should be on the stickier side. Knead on low 6 to 8 minutes in mixer, adding more flour 1 teaspoon at a time as needed. Dough should be smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.
- (If you’re not using a mixer, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir together with a wooden spoon. Then turn out onto a floured board. Knead by hand for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. Err on the side of sticky. Dough should be smooth and elastic.)
- If you’re using chocolate chips, currants and/or apples, knead in by hand in 2 to 3 additions.
- Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1½ to 2 hours. Punch down dough by folding it over in half several times to allow bubbles formed by yeast to dissipate. Cover and let rise again until double, about an hour.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle a bit of flour on your work surface. Divide dough in half, making two loaves. Divide into even strands and braid as desired, fastening ends securely by tucking under. Place on baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, 1 to 1½ hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush loaves with beaten egg and if desired, sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until golden brown, turning the cookie sheet once if your oven is uneven. (Tip: To be sure your bread is finished, take its inner temperature with a thermometer. It should be between 190 and 200 degrees.)
- Let your finished loaves sit on your cookie sheet for one minute after removing from the oven, then transfer to a cooling rack so the bottoms don’t get soggy. You can reheat your challah for a few minutes in a warm oven before serving.