Are you baking challah for Shabbat? With Pesach over, you have a couple of days to stock up on flour and yeast, pull out your mixing bowls and turn out some braided loaves of soft, pillowy goodness. Trust me, it’s well worthwhile! (And I say that having made it four days before (!) Pesach, after a series of mini–kitchen disasters.)
Sick of cooking? Whip up some creamy spinach dip to go along with the bread, put up a pot of chicken soup and enjoy a simple Shabbat. Take a break after all the holiday cooking and let the challah shine.
Choose a very large bowl. This recipe yields enough dough for six loaves, and the dough needs enough space to double in size while rising.
NOTE: In the comments section I've given the recipe for 1 loaf or 2 loaves.
Pour 2 cups of warm water into the bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top, with 2 tbsp. sugar. Mix briefly until combined (it’s okay if it’s a little lumpy), and let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes before continuing.
Add the rest of the warm water, oil, honey, eggs and salt. Mix. Start adding the flour, several cups at a time. Mix and watch a loose batter form. Keep adding flour and mixing until the dough begins to come together. You may not need all 18 cups of flour, so go slowly towards the end. Alternatively, you may need slightly more. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Once the dough has enough flour, knead it for a couple of minutes. I do this in the bowl. (You can do this recipe by hand or with a mixer. I prefer to do it by hand, to end up with less cleaning afterwards.)
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and put it in a warm place to rise for about an hour and a half. In the summertime, I sometimes put the dough outside in a sunny spot. In the winter, I start preheating my oven and put the bowl on the stovetop. The heat comes up and creates a warm space for the dough. After an hour and a half, the dough should be double its original size and ready to work with.
You can see from my pictures that my bowl was not large enough, so after making the dough I transferred it to a large disposable pan to rise.
Punch the dough down and let it rest for 10 minutes before doing the mitzvah of separating challah. Say the blessing, separate a small piece of dough, and set it aside to burn after the challah has finished baking. For more about this mitzvah, and a step-by-step guide, watch this quick do-it-yourself clip.
Now divide the dough into six relatively equal pieces. I roll the dough into a line and cut it with a knife. Each of the six pieces will make one challah.
This recipe makes six braided loaves, or you can use some of the dough to make rolls. I made four full-sized challahs and eight rolls.
Ready to start? Pick up one of your chunks of dough, roll it out and cut into three (as pictured). Then roll out each of the three pieces, and you’ll be ready to braid.
Pinch the three strands together at one end and begin to braid. If you’ve ever braided hair, you know how to braid challah. It’s exactly the same. It’s a repetitive motion of crossing the outer strands over the middle strand. Start with the right strand and pull it over the middle so it’s now in the center. Now pull the left strand over the new center strand, and again pull the right strand over the middle. Repeat until the loaf is fully braided, then pinch the ends together tightly. For a neater, rounder look, tuck both ends under the loaf (see the difference in the picture).
Making challah rolls is a bit simpler. Instead of cutting the dough into three pieces, cut it into four. Roll each one up individually as pictured. Tuck the ends under when done—this will stop them from unrolling.
If you’re finding the braiding tricky, you can use the roll technique to make large round challahs as well. Simply roll one of the original six chunks of dough into a line, roll up as pictured and tuck the end underneath.
Place the challahs on lightly greased pans, and make sure to leave space around them, because they will spread and grow while baking.
Put the pans in a warm place and let the challah rise a second time, for about 40 minutes.
Combine the egg wash ingredients and brush over the loaves. If you don’t have a brush, you can use the back of a spoon. Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 375° F. You’ll know they’re ready when the bottoms of the loaves feel hard and the tops appear golden brown. The rolls need much less time—about 20–25 minutes. For best results, let the loaves sit for about 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack until fully cooled.
Dips and spreads are delicious on challah. My favorites are hummus, olive spread or some of this spinach dip. It’s easy to whip up while the dough is rising or while the challahs are in the oven.
Sauté 1 diced onion and 2 chopped garlic cloves in 2 tbsp. olive oil until golden. Add ½ cup chopped spinach and sauté until soft. Blend with ¼ cup mayonnaise and 1 tsp. salt (this works best in a food processor). Adjust mayonnaise and salt amounts to taste. Spread on challah and enjoy!
NOTE: This recipe yields 6 loaves. In the comment section below I've given the recipe for 1 loaf or 2 loaves.
- 4 tbsp. dry yeast
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 5 cups very warm water
- 5 large eggs
- 1¼ cups honey
- 1 cup oil (canola or light olive oil)
- 2 tbsp. salt
- Approximately 18 cups flour
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 1 tbsp. oil
- In a very large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in 2 cups warm water and let sit about 15–20 minutes until thick and frothy.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and half the flour. Mix until a loose batter forms. Add the rest of the flour a couple of cups at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky.
- Cover the dough with a wet towel or plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1½ hours. Dough should double in size.
- Punch the dough down and let it rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 6 equal pieces.
- Braid according to pictures and directions above. Place loaves on lightly greased pans and let rise for another 40 minutes.
- Egg wash the loaves and bake at 375° F for approximately 45 minutes. Loaves should be golden brown and firm on the bottom.
There is a tradition in some Jewish communities to make shlissel challah the week after Pesach. Shlissel means “key,” and the custom involves either baking the challah in the shape of a key, or wrapping ones real house (or business) key in foil and pressing it into the underside of the challah before baking. The key is removed before the challah is eaten, and the tradition is considered a segulah (spiritually propitious) for livelihood.
Have you made challah before? Or do you have bread-baking-phobia (not uncommon, even among seasoned cooks)? What’s your favorite way to eat challah? Do you have a special dip you like to spread on it? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear your ideas.