Challah is a Jewish celebration and Sabbath bread. To form the dough you use a three strand braid. you can stack two braids on top of each other, serve it as one braid, or curl the large braid into a round loaf. The three strands represent truth, peace and beauty. When curled into a round loaf the round shape symbolizes that the world has no beginning and no end. The spiral coil indicates the ascension to God. It is served on the sabbath usually with a garnish of seeds to symbolize the falling of manna from heaven. When served at the table it is covered with a cloth to represent the heavenly dew that protects the manna.
It was a beautiful loaf and easy to braid. It was significantly larger then I thought it would be. I looked up some ideas for using it and several people said it makes great french toast. Several people also mentioned that Challah bread is the bread of choice for delis. It is a hearty bread and holds up well, but after the last two weeks of rich bread it seemed a little lacking. It does make a great grilled cheese sandwich though!
Oh, and as a note. I purchased unbleached bread flour last week to see how it would affect the bread. What a difference. The gluten actually developed in the time listed in the recipe. It is at least twice the cost of unbleached all-purpose flour, about $0.60 per pound whereas all-purpose flour is about $0.25 per pound. But it makes such a difference.
makes 1 large braided loaf, 2 smaller loaves, or 1 large double braided celebration loaf
4 C Unbleached Bread Flour
2 T Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 1/3 tsp Instant Yeast
2 T Vegetable Oil
2 Large Eggs
2 Large Egg Yolks
3/4 C plus 2 T Water, room temperature
2 egg whites, whisked until frothy for egg wash
Sesame or Poppy seeds for garnish
1. Stir together dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and mix with a spoon or on low speed with the paddle attachment until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. If needed, you can add an additional 1-2 T of water.
2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and knead for about 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes with the dough hook on medium-low speed). Sprinkle in more flour as needed to make a soft but not sticky dough. It should pass the windowpane test.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl and form the dough into a tight ball. Roll the dough in the oil to coat, cover with plastic wrap and ferment for an hour at room temperature. Remove the dough and knead for 2 minutes. Re-form it into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for an additional hour. The dough should increase by about 1 1/2 times.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide the dough into three equal pieces (look at the end of the recipe for instructions for the celebration loaf). Regardless of the size of loaf form each ball into a tight ball, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
5. Uncover the balls and roll each into a long thin rope, about 14 inches or so. Make sure they are all the same length with each roll larger in the center and tapered at the end. Place all three lengths on the counter perpendicular to your body and about an inch from each other. You have a left, middle and right strand (starting from your left). Starting in the middle of the loaf place the right strand over the middle strand, then the left strand over the middle strand. Follow that pattern to the end and pinch the end together. Gently pick up your loaf and rotate 180 degrees so that the unbraided strands are facing you. Starting in the middle again wrap the right strand UNDER the middle, then the left strand UNDER the middle. Follow that pattern until the end and then pinch to seal. Carefully place on parchment covered cookie sheet and brush with egg wash. Spray lightly with oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Ferment at room temperature for about an hour until the dough has grown to 1 1/2 times it's original size.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 (325 for the celebration bread) with the rack on the middle shelf. Brush the loaves with egg wash again and then sprinkle with seeds if using. Bake for 20 minutes then rotate the pan and continue baking for 20-45 minutes until it is rich golden brown and registers 190 in the center. Cool for an hour before cutting and serving.
Note: Celebration Bread, divide it into three equal pieces and then combine two pieces (so you will have a 1/3 of the dough in one ball and 2/3 of the dough in another ball). Divide the two balls into three equal pieces respectively, so you will have 3 small balls and three larger balls. Roll each set of three into matching lengths with the smaller ropes at least 2 inches smaller then the large ropes. Braid each set as explained in step 5. Lay the smaller braid on top of the larger braid and then proceed with the egg wash and rising. Bake this loaf at 325, it will need to bake for nearly an hour because of how large it is.