I share this recipe with a nod to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Manhattan. I have adapted and used this recipe of theirs, which a friend of mine shared with me, since the first time I made challah so long ago. Specifically, she said that it was used in a Mommy and Me cooking class for two- to three-year-olds, and I always figured if these little kids could make challah, then so could I!
- 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon plus ¼ cup sugar, divided
- 1 cup very warm water (almost too warm, but not hot!)
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup oil
- About 4 cups flour, plus more if needed and for surface
- Egg wash
- 1 egg yolk beaten with a few teaspoons water
- Mix yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and warm water together in small bowl; let stand approximately 10 minutes. This mixture will start to bubble. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, mix together eggs, salt, ¼ cup sugar, oil and 2 cups flour. Now is a great time to say, “I am making this dough in the merit of [insert the name of someone—maybe a friend who is sick that week, or someone you are happy for, sad for, mad at, etc.].”
- Add the yeast mixture to flour mixture. Add approximately 1½ cups flour to the mixture. Dough should start to form a ball, separating from the bowl. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead, lifting up with one hand and then the other. This should take at least 5 minutes as dough becomes increasingly elastic. If still sticky, add a bit more flour to the dough. Knead dough into a ball. Place dough back into oiled bowl, cover and place the covered bowl somewhere warm for 1 to 1½ hours to rise; it will approximately double in volume.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the cover from bowl, place dough on floured surface. Take a small piece of dough (roughly the size of an egg), double wrap in plastic wrap and say the prayer over separating the challah (technically, you’re only supposed to say the prayer if more than 5 pounds of flour are used, but traditions vary).* Discard this piece of wrapped dough and continue.
- Punch out dough one more time. Cut the dough into 2 balls, one for each challah. Then divide each ball into 3 equal pieces. Roll out each piece, crimp together at the top and braid into a loaf. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with second ball of dough. Cover loosely and let the dough rise again at this step, until puffy, about half an hour.
- Place braided dough on a baking sheet that is greased or lined with parchment paper, and paint each challah with egg wash. Bake approximately 23 to 30 minutes, or until bread has risen and is golden brown. Remove, let cool. Place challah on platter, cover and wait for dinner.
- *Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav V’Tziyvanu L”Hafrish Challah. (Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to separate the Challah.)