Alternate post title: This Challah is JAMming!
My coworker, Ariel, started her own food blog, This Food is My JAM, within a month of Rice and myself. We didn’t even know about each others’ until about a week ago. This is irrefutable evidence that Ariel is awesome. After that discovery, we were chatting about what we like to make. I love baking bread, but all of my Challahs, the cornerstone of non-Passover-friendly Jewish baked goods, sucked. Ariel had just baked an awesome Challah and was gracious enough to share the recipe.
This turned out pretty spectacular. Challah makes for tasty sandwiches and is great by itself or with some butter or jelly. It makes AMAZING french toast. The egginess makes it delicious.
Notes in the “()” are JAM’s edits, as they made a 1/2 recipe. This makes HUGE loafs. I decided to make the full recipe, and will be bringing some in to work, freezing some, and possibly mailing some to my parents.
1976: Challah (NY Times September 28, 2008)
This recipe from Sarah Schecht of Brooklyn appeared in an article by Craig Claiborne.
9 cups sifted, unbleached flour, plus additional flour for kneading (JAM NOTE: I used about 5 cups)
2 (¼-ounce) packages dry active yeast (JAM NOTE: I used 1 package)
½ teaspoon baking powder (JAM NOTE: 1/4 tsp)
½ teaspoon cinnamon (JAM NOTE: 1/4 tsp)
1 tablespoon salt (JAM NOTE: 1/2 tbsp)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (JAM NOTE: 1/2 tsp)
4 large eggs (JAM NOTE: I used 2 for the bread, 1 for the egg wash)
¾ cup corn oil or clarified butter, plus more for greasing baking sheet (JAM NOTE: I used clarified butter, 3/8 cup)
¾ cup plus 1 1/8 teaspoon sugar (JAM NOTE: 3/8 cup plus 1/8 tsp)
1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds.
1. Place 6 cups (JAM NOTE: 3 cups) of the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. In a small bowl, stir the yeast into 1 cup (1/2 cup) of lukewarm water until dissolved. Add this to the well. Using a fork, stir around the well, gradually incorporating ¼ of the flour (JAM NOTE: make sure to incorporate only some of the flour. I started mixing it all together and had to throw that batch into the trash!) — no more — into the yeast mixture. Set the bowl in a warm place and let stand 45 to 50 minutes.
2. Sprinkle the baking powder, cinnamon and salt over the flour mixture. Add the vanilla, 3 of the eggs (JAM NOTE: 2 eggs), the oil (or butter) and 3/4 cup of the sugar. Add 1 1/2 cups (JAM NOTE: 3/4 cup) lukewarm water and blend again, first using the fork and then your hands. Add 2 cups of flour (JAM NOTE: 1 cup), kneading for about 10 minutes. If the mixture is still too sticky, add up to a cup more of flour (JAM NOTE: Used 1 more cup). The dough is ready when it doesn’t stick to your hands. Shape into a rough ball, cover, let stand 20 minutes and then turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Knead well for about 5 minutes, adding a little flour to the board as needed to prevent sticking. Set the dough in a floured bowl and lightly coat in flour. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
3. Turn the dough onto a flat surface and knead briefly. Cut off 1/8 of the dough (JAM NOTE: Cut into 1/3 pieces), knead quickly, shape into a ball, flour lightly and let rest briefly. Repeat with remaining 7 pieces (JAM NOTE: remaining 2 pieces). Using your hands, roll each piece into a 12-to-15-inch-long rope. Continue with remaining balls.
4. Align the ropes vertically, side by side. Gather the tops together, one at a time, pinching down to seal. Separate the ropes down the center, 4 to a side. Braid them as follows: bring the outer right rope over toward the center next to the inside rope on the left. Bring the outer left rope over toward the center next to the inside rope on the right. Repeat this process until the loaf is braided. As the last ropes are brought over, pull and stretch them a bit as needed. When braided, gather the bottom ends of the ropes and pinch them together. (JAM NOTE: Made a simple braid using three pieces)
5. Generously oil (or butter) the bottom and sides of a large baking sheet. Carefully lift the braided loaf and transfer to the baking sheet. Cover the loaf with a towel and place in a warm spot until the loaf is doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
6. Beat the remaining egg with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of sugar. Brush the loaf with the egg wash and then sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes to an hour (JAM NOTE: Baked 45 min). Makes 1 loaf.