The classic Jewish Sabbath bread recipe is dairy-free per custom.
Whether you make this for a weekly Sabbath observance or just to wow the brunch crowd with homemade French Toast from start to finish, you'll want to make this bread every week. I learned ages ago how to make this from challah instructor extraordinaire Joan Richter at the JCC of Manhattan where I taught for many years. Once you make your own challah you will never want to stop! Three braids is the easiest way to form a challah, but four strands produces a more plump and proud-looking loaf. It takes practice to get it just right, so do not be discouraged. This recipe yields one large loaf or two smaller loaves, with just a small adjustment in cooking times. Another delicious challah recipe: Golden Raisin Challah Rounds
Equipment: measuring spoons, wet and dry measuring cups, two large mixing bowls, dough hook, standing mixer with dough hook attachment (optional), bench scraper, plastic wrap, baking sheet, parchment paper or nonstick baking mat, cooling rack
Ingredients: 1 cup warm water (at least 95°F - 110°F) 1 package yeast (or 2¼ teaspoons) 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil 1/3 cup sugar (or ½ cup for sweeter bread) 1 tablespoon kosher salt 3 large eggs 4 – 4½ cups bread flour (or all-purpose) * 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water
optional seeds, such as poppy or sesame, for garnish
"Bread flour has more gluten (wheat protein) than does all-purpose flour. The more gluten the stronger the bread structure, which also helps the dough to rise."
1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, sprinkle yeast and sugar on warm water. Stir. Let stand for up to 10 minutes (it should look like the foam on beer).
2. In a large bowl, combine oil, sugar, salt, eggs, and then the yeast mixture. Stir in 2 cups of flour.
3. Gradually stir in most of the remaining flour.* Dough will be sticky.
*ILOC tip: The amount of flour used will vary, depending upon the moisture in the air.
4. Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (or use a standing mixer with the dough hook on a low speed), adding a little flour at a time as needed. If dough sticks to the counter, use a bench scraper to clean the surface and lightly flour the board to prevent further sticking. When done kneading, the dough will feel silky and smooth.
5. Put dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1½ hours in a warm, draft-free environment until approximately doubled (the bowl placed inside your oven with the light on is a good spot).
6. Punch down the dough with your floured fist. Divide it in half evenly if making two loaves and set one half aside. Divide the piece into equal sections (3 or 4, depending on type of braid). Roll each section into equal strands, tapering the ends as you roll.
7. Pinch the strands together at one end and braid, maintaining the same tension as you go so that the challah will be symmetrical. Pinch the other end as well when done.Repeat for second challah if making two loaves.
8. Place dough on parchment paper or nonstick baking mat. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel as it goes through the final rise for 1 hour.
"If you are pressed for time, you can skip the second rise and still get great results!"
9. Right before baking, brush the bread with beaten egg wash (egg and water).
10. Bake for 17 minutes (or 15 minutes if making two smaller loaves) and remove the pan from the oven (shut the oven door so the heat does not escape). Brush with additional egg wash (sprinkle with optional seeds), and rotate the pan when returning it to the oven. Bake for another 17 minutes (or 15 minutes if making two smaller loaves).
The bread should take approximately 30+ minutes in total, until golden brown and challah sounds hollow when bottom is tapped. (Internal temperature approximately 190°F - 195°F) Temperature will vary depending on the size of the bread.
11. Allow the bread to rest and cool for one hour before serving.
You can make the dough the night before, and place in the refrigerator to rise. Remove it 30 minutes before shaping. Then proceed as written above.