Traditionally Challah is double stranded (meaning 6 strands that create 12 'humps') The strands, arms intertwined, symbolize love, truth, peace, creation, freedom, harmony, family connection, unity and justice. Rather poetic isn't it? Challah is a celebrated bread in the Jewish community and it's challah that heralds the Sabbath. Who knew one bread (or two loaves, traditionally) was so intertwined with Faith and beautiful meaning/s to so many. I grew up having so many Jewish friends, coworkers and my employer for a decade was Orthodox Jew - I loved learning all about their religion and customs. I decided to try and bake my very first Challah bread today. I really do think that my Dear friend Sylvia was watching over me!! I have never considered myself a good baker - at all. I think it amazes me more then anyone else that this bread turned out so well... I hear Sylvia right now - silently whispering "mazel tov Diane"
3 Cups unbleached white all-purpose flour, divided
1 Tbs active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar, for yeast/sponge
1/2 tsp salt (table salt)
1/2 cup warm water, divided (90-110 or temp your yeast needs)
2 1/2 Tbs plus 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs,at room temperature
1 Tbsp water, cold
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
Using electric mixer with dough hook at slow speed (2).
Place 2 cups of the flour in the mixing bowl, make indentation into flour, and place yeast and sugar in indentation.
Add 1/4 cup of the water and mix. When sponge rises (approx. 5 mins), add eggs one at a time and blend thoroughly. Then add salt, remainder of the flour along with warm water, oil, and sugar. If batter is too loose add flour and bring dough to an elastic state. If batter is too tight, add a bit of water.
Let machine and knead 3 to 4 minutes more. Place dough ball in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise to double in size (approx 1 1/2 hours.) Punch down dough and remove from bowl.
Challah requires 6 braids, however, this is a 3 strand braid - it's a lot easier. Cut dough into three pieces. Form each piece of dough into 3 equal strands at 14” long.
Pinch the tops of the 3 strands together and braid the dough. Place on a lightly corn meal covered, parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Cover and let rise for the second time, one hour.
Preheat oven to 400.
Slightly beat the egg and cold water to make an egg wash. Brush egg wash on top of loaf and and then sprinkle poppy seeds on top.
Bake for 15 minutes then change the temperature to 350°F. Baking time should be about 30 minutes.
Yield: One Loaf
Recipe Adapted from: Bob Losch
Photos by: Diane Baker for Canning and Cooking at Home