Watching our identical twin grandsons grow up is such a joy. They are sweet and smart – and love hanging out at the farm. Always chores to do and baking and cooking with grandma. Here they are making bread with me one Friday some weeks ago. It was one of those amazing California weekends when the temperature was 85 degrees! We painted bird houses for the humming birds that populate our farm ( the ones we chose were too small for the cockatiels and parakeets in our aviary – where we have 200 birds) .
And here is the recipe for making Challah Bread – easy but time consuming!
How To Make Challah Bread
2 Tbsp active dry or instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water
9-9.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 Tbsp salt
4 large eggs plus one for painting on the challah before baking
1/2 cup Canola vegetable oil
- Dissolve the yeast: Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a small bowl, and add a teaspoon of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let stand for 10 minutes until you see a thin frothy layer across the top. This means that the yeast is active and ready to use. (If you do not see this or if your yeast won’t dissolve, it has likely expired and you’ll need to purchase new yeast.)
- Mix the dry ingredients: Whisk together 9 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand).
- Add the eggs and oil which you have beaten together: Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs and oil. Whisk these together to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
- Mix to form a shaggy dough using a wooden spoon: Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix the yeast, eggs, and flour with a long-handled spoon until you form a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix.
- Knead the dough for 15 minutes by turning out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand- this is REALLY GOOD EXERCISE! If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl ( turn it over a few times so that the oil coats all of it) , cover with plastic wrap and towels, and place somewhere warm. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 – 3 hours.
- Separate the dough into six equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you’d like to do. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope roughly 1-inch thick and 16 inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and then try again.
- Gather 3 of the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top to make a 3-stranded challah, braid the ropes together like braiding hair or yarn and squeeze the ends together when complete.
- Spray a baking sheet with spray ( or pour a little oil onto it a spread it around smoothly) and lift the loaf on top. Sprinkle the loaf with a little flour and drape it with a clean dishcloth. Place the pan somewhere warm and away from drafts and let it rise until puffed and pillowy, about an hour.
- About 20 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 350°F. When ready to bake, whisk the last egg and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.
- Slide the challah into the oven on its baking sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, The challah is done when it is browned. This recipe will make TWO large challahs ( you have six ropes so have to braid two challahs of 3 braids each)
- Cool the challah: Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm. Slice and eat.
Making a 6-Stranded Challah Braid
The name of the game here is "over two, under one, over two." Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, and then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest-left strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Your braid will start listing to the left as you go; it’s ok to lift it up and recenter the loaf if you need to. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together and tuck them under the loaf.
At this point, your loaf is fairly long and skinny. If you’d like to make a celebration ring, stretch the loaf a little longer and pull the ends toward each other to create a circle. You can either squeeze the ends together, or if you’re feeling adventurous, braid them into a continuous circle.
If you’re making a regular loaf you need to "plump" it a little to tighten the ropes into more of a loaf shape. Place your left palm at the end of the braid and your right palm at the top, and gently push the two ends toward each other, just like plumping a pillow in slow motion. Then slip your fingers under the dough along either side and gently lift the dough while cupping it downwards.
For the grandsons below, I divided the dough into two smaller pieces and one larger one. I made the larger one into one large Challah for the Friday night dinner for the family while the smaller ones were divided into ropes of three each by the children and braided into individual Challahs as you see pictured below. Great excitement and happiness all around!