6 cups bread flour (or mix of bread and all-purpose or other flours)
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup canola or olive oil
1 packet of yeast
¼ cup sugar or honey
2 cups of lukewarm water (more if needed)
- Stir the yeast and a little of the sugar into 2 cups of lukewarm water
- As soon as you see bubbles, start adding flour a few cups at a time
- Add eggs, salt, oil ( add more water if needed to mix everything together)
- Knead until the dough feels like an earlobe (my children thought that sounded gross)
- Cover and let rest for a few hours until double (or loosely cover with a towel in a glass bowl and let sit in the refrigerator overnight).
- Make sure to take it out first thing in the morning. Punch down.
- Allow it to rise again until double, then braid (I do 4, 5 and 6 braid challahs)
- Rest covered until ready to bake in preheated 350 oven for about 25 minutes until golden. Brush with a honey and egg white combo if desired. And sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds if your children will allow it.
When I first started baking challah, it came out looking like pita. I was pregnant and we’d moved to Colorado Springs. I had to go to the library to look up high altitude baking (this was in the eighties) and while I was there, I picked up an old book on a display shelf. I stood there reading about an eccentric detective in NYC who liked growing orchids, reading, and eating gourmet meals prepared by his personal chef. It was Rex Stout, and it was riveting, but I didn’t borrow the book. I considered myself to be a reader of literature, not mysteries.
I learned how to bake challah at altitude and ended up borrowing four novels that day. I’d always loved reading and usually read between forty and fifty books a year. Mysteries were iffy because they often included violence or disgusting discussions about the trajectory of blood and the placement of body parts. Mysteries, I thought, were a lower form of literature, like romances. I was a reading snob.