The traditional bread of the Jewish Sabbath, Challah (pronounced HALL-ah) is also enjoyed in many cultures throughout Europe. Challah comes from the Hebrew word for “portion”, as it refers to the portion of dough reserved for the high priests of the Temple of Jerusalem. When white flour first became available, it was quite expensive and the homemaker would reserve her white flour for the special Friday night bread. Now, due to this tradition, Challah is most always made with white flour.
There are many ways to braid Challah, and the three-strand is certainly the most simple… but why not take it up a notch to the more-gorgeous four-strand braid? Here is a delicious recipe for making the dough in your bread machine and detailed instructions for braiding Challah.
Add to bread machine in order listed:
3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I use canola)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 to 3½ cups white bread flour (depends on size of your eggs)
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
(You will need another egg later for the egg wash, see below.)
Use dough setting. After cycle is complete, roll dough on a floured board. Let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough into four equal pieces and roll into four long sausage-shapes, about one foot long each. Place on a large baking sheet, preferably lined with parchment paper (or lightly oiled). (The baking sheet in the accompanying photos is 17×12 inches.)
You will begin the braid in the center of the dough strips, braid to the end and then turn the pan around and braid to the opposite end.
SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS: Always start braiding with the right-most strand and always follow a over, under, over order.
When you get to the end and can’t find enough of a strand to braid any longer, tuck the ends securely under the loaf:
If it doesn’t look quite right, try it again. Challah dough is quite forgiving – and it doesn’t have to be perfect – most uneven braids seem to even-out during rising anyway.
Now, turn the pan around and braid to the opposite end:
(See how all the braids are not exactly even? Close enough!) Now, cover the bread with a towel and leave to rise, until doubled, about 40 minutes. This eggy dough really rises, so check on it after 30 minutes. Take an egg out of the fridge now too (for the egg wash) so it can warm a bit. The oven will need to be at 375°.
When the dough has doubled in size, beat one egg well with a tablespoon of water and carefully brush this mixture over the top of the bread and sprinkle a topping of your choice – poppy or sesame seeds are traditional, and it represents “manna from heaven”. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes, until loaf is well-browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove to a rack to cool.
Mazel tov – now you can make Challah!