Classic Challah Bread
Challah is a special bread in Jewish cuisine that is braided and typically eaten on Sabbath, as well as several Jewish holidays–excluding Passover. Challah is surrounded by folklore and tradition and loaded with symbolism. Braided challah is most often made with three, four or six strands. They are said to resemble arms intertwined, symbolizing love–or in some cases truth, peace and justice.
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In a small mixing bowl add the yeast and water and mix well. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy. Set aside.
In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, such as a Kitchen Aid fitted with a dough attachment, add the flour, sugar and salt and blend. This entire process can be done by hand if you prefer, it will just take a bit longer.
Add the eggs, oil and honey and turn the mixer on low to blend. Allow the mixer to knead the dough for about 6 minutes. The dough should seem a bit sticky by the end.
Lightly oil a large mixing bowl and set aside. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 3-4 minutes. Form the dough into a large smooth ball and place in the prepared bowl. Lightly oil the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot to rise and double in size, which should take about 1 and 1/2 hours.
When the dough has risen, using your hands separate the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into long ropes about 14 inches long. Let the dough relax for a minute before you begin braiding.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.To braid the challah, line all three ropes next to each other on a large work surface. Gather the ends of the three ropes at the top end and gently pinch them together. Fold the squeezed section underneath itself to form a smooth end up top.
Working with the three ropes, tightly braid the pieces together as you would if braiding a child’s hair. When you reach the end, repeat what you did on the top: squeeze the three pieces together and gently tuck the end underneath itself so no rope ends are exposed.
Place the braided challah on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise again in a warm spot for one hour.
When the challah has risen, it will appear puffy. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small bowl whisk the remaining egg and water together. Using a pastry brush, brush the challah all over making sure to get the sides and all the little crevices between the braids.