No Raisins Already
(Makes 2 round loaves)
Traditionally a milchig challah
is different from a fleishig challah
. If you keep kosher, you already know the appropriate substitutions. If not, go with the full on milk and butter version; you'll love this soft, sweet bread that already has so much butter in it. It's practically cake.
If, instead of forming challahs, you make sandwich loaves, the bread makes best-ever pain perdu
(aka French toast), and bread pudding.Ingredients
7 cups, unbleached AP flour
2 tbs instant yeast
1 tbs sea salt or kosher salt, or 2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks melted butter (or 1 cup neutral oil, such as corn or safflower, or 3/4 cup neutral oil and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil)
1 cup warm water, divided in halves
1 cup milk (or an additional 1 cup water)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup bench flour
1 to 2 tbs extra virgin olive oilEgg Wash and Topping
1 tbs water
2 - 3 tbs poppy or sesame seeds (optional)Technique
In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread’s dry ingredients (except for the bench flour) together with a fork.
Melt the butter over a low flame, or in the microwave. Whisk the 3 eggs, the milk, and 1/2 cup of warm water together until the eggs are blended. Add the honey, and melted butter, and whisk until just combined.
Combine the liquid and dry ingredients. Mix by hand or in a large, strong stand mixer, until the dough cleans the bowl. If dough requires more water used the reserved warm water a couple of tablespoons at a time.
If kneading by machine, change the paddle for the dough hook and knead for approximately 10 minutes, adding bench flour only as needed to keep dough from sticking to bowl. Dough should be shiny and elastic.
If kneading by hand, remove the dough from the bowl and knead for at least ten minutes. Add bench flour only as as needed to keep dough from sticking to the board. Knead dough until shiny and elastic – well into the “window pane stage.” The changes are quite pronounced shortly after it enters the window pane stage – about another two minutes of kneading. Pull the dough into a ball. Note: The combination of honey and so much butter give this dough a unique feel – slick and sticky at the same time. Sounds paradoxical, no? You’ll just have to try it.
Wash your mixing bowl with hot water, then dry it immediately and thoroughly. While the bowl is still warm, add a generous tbs of extra virgin olive oil to it. Put the ball of dough in the oil and shmush it around so all surfaces of the dough are well covered. Then use the oily ball of dough to oil the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and allow the dough to rise until it doubles in volume.
When the dough has risen, punch down, cover, and allow to double again. You don’t have to be particularly rough or gentle. It won’t matter one way or the other, because the loaf forming process is brutal.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and use your board knife to cut it in half. It’s traditional to make a blessing when dividing the dough this way. Return one half to the bowl to form the second loaf.
Divide the remaining dough into four or five (I prefer five, but if you’ve never done this before start with four) even pieces, and form each of them into a snakes about 8" long. Lay them next to one another in parallel lines and begin to braid. Tip: Here’s an old Jewish trick, from a tricky, old Jew. Start braiding in the center. As you braid you’ll stretch the snakes – because you’re working towards the ends, both will be symmetrical. Don’t worry about making the very ends perfect.
When you’ve braided nearly all the way to one end, turn your board (or your half formed loaf) and braid nearly all the way to the other end.
Remove the dough as gently as possible to a floured baking pan. Coil the braided dough into a circle, and lay one unfinished, skinny end on top of the other. Flatten the overlapping ends with your hand, and cut the four, evenly spaced, parallel gashes so the look like the spaces between the fingers of a hand. Trim the “thumb” and “pinky” to make it look even more like a hand. Cover with cling wrap and allow to rise until doubled.
Repeat the entire process with the second half of the dough.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Note: Why so low? 350F is appropriate both for a soft crust and an egg wash.
When the dough has risen, check the “hands” and make fresh slashes if necessary. Beat the egg with the tbs of water. Use a soft brush to gently and generously paint the loaves with the egg wash, then sprinkle the tops generously with poppy or sesame seeds if desired.
Bake the loaves for 45 minutes to 1 hour; use the “thump” test to check for doneness. Get the loaves off their baking sheets and onto a rack to cool as soon as possible.L'Shana tovah