I love challah all year-round, but during the High Holidays,
good challah is a necessity. This recipe
represents a hybrid between my friend Robin’s challah, and the mighty Joan
Nathan’s (my Jewish cooking Idol) challah.
There’s a lot to love about it.
First off, it’s easy—easy to remember (thanks to the straightforward
measurements), easy to whip up (because it’s just for one loaf), and easy to
handle (because all the dough fits in my Kitchen Aid.)
For the challah-impaired, this post will be text-light,
but image-heavy (scroll down after the recipe).
Also, check out this video which I think is totally
helpful for learning how to braid a round challah, which is what you want for the holidays. In terms of looks, I’m not too fussy. I’m more
concerned with how something tastes. If you don't want to bother braiding your challah, just twist it like a snail shell into a spiral. Looks just as nice though not quite as boast-worthy.
Flavor-wise, this challah is perfectly egg-y and perfectly
honeyed (I use honey in the dough for a deeper, more complex taste). My friend Olga had the
brilliant idea of using really good extra-virgin olive oil, but if you want to
just use safflower oil your challah would still turn out delicious, though maybe not as interesting.
There are two key elements here: The dough should
be sticky (as Dahlia so deftly displays above). The stickier the dough, the softer and more supple the loaf (I wrote about this last year, too). And the double egg wash is essential to give your loaf that super-glossy, dark brown look.
If you have a darling child around to help,
that will make your challah all the more special and festive. Happy New Year!
Really, This is The Best-ever Challah
Makes 1 large loaf
1 package dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed from 1 big orange)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
1/4 cup good honey
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
1 teaspoon poppy seeds, optional
1. In the bowl of a
Kitchen Aid mixer, combine yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water. Let yeast mixture stand at room temperature for about 5
minutes until it starts to look foamy.
2. Whisk in orange juice, olive oil, 2 eggs,
honey, and salt. Fit mixer with dough
hook and begin slowly beating in flour 1 cup at a time to form smooth dough,
beating well after each addition. Beat on medium speed until smooth and
elastic, but still sticky, about 5 minutes. Turn dough out
onto a floured work surface and knead for about 2 minutes until the dough
begins to spring back. It should stick to your hands, it's annoying, but worth it.
3. Lightly oil large bowl. Add dough, turning to
coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and let dough rise in warm draft-free
area until doubled in volume, about 1 to 2 hours.
4. Punch down dough. Cover again with plastic and
let rise another hour. Punch dough down
5. Grease a 9-inch pie pan or baking sheet. Turn out dough onto
lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each
piece into ropes. Arrange ropes in a criss-cross pattern and braid into a
round. (See photos below.) Place braided round in the pie pan or on the baking sheet. Whisk
remaining egg, brush dough all over and let rise again until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush dough again with egg. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and transfer to
oven. Bake 30-40 minutes until golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. An instant read thermometer should read 190 degrees F. Transfer challah to rack and cool completely.