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Walnut Creek Magazine

Master the Art of Challah Bread

Aug 24, 2020 09:00AM ● By Pam Kessler


Recipe from the book THE GEFILTE MANIFESTO by Jeffrey Yoskowitz & Liz Alpern

(Copyright © 2016 by Gefilte Manifesto LLC. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books)

INGREDIENTS: (makes two loaves)

2 (¼-ounce) packets active dry yeast (4½ teaspoons)

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup lukewarm water

1 cup boiling water

1/4 cup vegetable oil or grapeseed oil

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

5 to 6 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed

Sesame seeds or poppy seeds, for sprinkling (optional)


1. In a small bowl, combine yeast, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and lukewarm water. Stir and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the remaining 2/3 cup sugar, boiling water, oil, and salt. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Add beaten eggs (reserve about 1 tablespoon for coating loaves at the end), pour in yeast mixture, and stir to combine.

2. Add flour 1 cup at a time. Start by stirring in flour with a fork, then switch to kneading by hand. Don’t be afraid to add more flour. You do not want a sticky dough. Knead dough until it bounces back when you poke it with your finger, about 12 minutes. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.)

3. Transfer dough to a clean bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size. Do not rush this first rising. Leave the dough for as long as it takes to double in size (up to 4 hours, if necessary).

4. When the dough has risen, punch it down and lightly knead it on a floured surface. Separate dough into 12 pieces about the size of golf balls. Roll each piece into a ball and then roll each ball into a long rope about 8 inches long.

5. Braid ropes into two large challahs using the six-braid method. Place 6 ropes of dough in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. Make a second loaf the same way.

6. Place braided loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, coat each loaf with the reserved egg and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if you like. Set aside to rise for 45 minutes, until they are puffy.

7. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake challah for 30 minutes, moving loaves from top rack to bottom rack halfway through baking time. At 30 minutes, check challah by (carefully) lifting each one up and tapping the bottom with a knuckle. If it sounds hollow and the outside of the challah is a brownish color, it’s ready. If it sounds completely solid or is still pale in color or doughy in places where the braids meet, bake for 5 to 10 minutes more and test again. Remove loaves from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Challah freezes well and can be thawed and reheated before serving.

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