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Challah: A Delicious Bread Recipe

This recipe came to me from my friend Kari’s grandma. Challah (pronounced like “holla”) is a traditional Jewish bread made to eat on the Sabbath and on special holidays. After I attempted to make challah from a generic cookbook in my early bread-baking days, Kari set me on the right path with her family’s traditional loaf. I was hooked, and I think you will be too.

Makes 3 large loaves (freezes well)

2 ½ cups hot water
2 tsp salt
½ cup vegetable or olive oil
1/8 tsp saffron (optional, but it gives nice color and flavor)
½ cup sugar or honey
½ cup warm water
6 tsp instant yeast
5 eggs, beaten at room temp
10 cups bread flour
1 egg beaten with a little water for brushing loaves

  1. In a very large bowl, mix together 2 ½ cups hot water, salt, sugar, oil, and saffron. Let stand until cool to the touch.
  2. Dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water and add a pinch of flour. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  3. When the water mixture is cooled, add yeast, eggs, and 5 cups flour, 1 cup at a time.
  4. Add the remaining flour gradually until the dough can be lifted out onto a floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It may be easier to divide the dough in half for kneading.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and roll it around to cover with oil. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel, and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. Fold the dough on itself several times to punch down. Cover again and let rise until doubled, between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
  7. Tip the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide into 9 balls, 3 for each loaf (if you want smaller loaves, make smaller balls and increase the number by multiples of 3 for each loaf). Roll each ball into ropes of equal length (between 12 and 15 inches). Pinch the ends of 3 ropes together and braid the strands together, pinching the ends together again and transferring the braid to a greased cookie sheet. Repeat for the next two loaves. Cover and let rise until pillowy, between 30-45 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350⁰. Brush the loaves with egg wash, getting all the way to the bottom and in the cracks. Bake loaves for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Check the bottoms as the loaves get close to done so that it doesn’t get overly brown.
  9. *This recipe makes a lot of bread, but don’t let that scare you off. The loaves freeze well wrapped in foil, make wonderful French toast, and few people will turn down a gift of homemade bread!

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