Sometimes, when time is short at the end of the week I buy my challah. Please don’t judge me, I just run out of time and it’s just, well, easier. Not necessarily tastier than homemade challah, just easier. Fast forward to the holidays and OMG I have to have sooooo many challahs to make and everyone that has to cook for 30 people 12 times over a 4-week period knows how it is, you just go buy the challah. However, all this being said, nothing beats homemade.
A challah is, in its purest, no additive form, is a sweet-ish, golden-brown, braided or circular loaf of deliciousness. For me, making and baking challah is as much a religious experience as eating it. The mixing, kneading and shaping (and taking challah) feed the creative side of me, the aroma while it’s baking and that first bite feed the rest of me.
While the basics of challah making are often taught from parent to child, some of us who had parents who always bought challah had to learn by trial and error. I was taught by my dear friends Annette, Connie and Julie. While I’m not as good as these balabustas my pull-apart challah is pretty awesome.
So, for the holidays this year I’m not giving you classic or traditional challah recipes. Rather, these are the extra special challah recipes to serve on the holidays.
Challah things I learned along the way:
- 1 package of yeast is = to 2¼ teaspoons
- You can use regular or rapid rise yeast, they taste the same one just works faster than the other
- Measure your oil in your measuring cup first, and then use it for measuring honey (if you’re using it instead of sugar) the honey slides right out.
- Instead of brushing on all the egg wash before you bake it, brush lightly to start then bake the challah for 20 to 25 minutes and then quickly brush on the remaining egg wash, then return to the oven and bake for another 5 or 10 minutes until golden brown.
Cinnamon Apple Challah (pareve)
Yields 1 or 2 challahs, depending on size
- 1 packet rapid rise yeast
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup oil, plus more for the bowl
- 2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 4¼ cups flour (bread flour is fine), more for dusting
- 2 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 beaten egg (for wash)
- In a bowl combine the yeast, 1 teaspoon honey into 2/3 cup warm water. Let stand until the mixture starts to bubble.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer (use a dough hook, it will be weird at first but everything will combine) combine the yeast mixture, oil, remaining honey, eggs and yolk. Slowly add 1 cup of flour and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix to combine.
- Add the salt, mix and then add the remaining flour. Continue to beat the dough for about 4 or 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oil coated bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm (but not hot place) for about 1 hour. It should be about twice the original size.
- In a bowl combine the apple chunks, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and the lemon juice. Mix to coat.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Press the dough into a long rectangle. Spoon 2/3 of apple chunks over the bottom of the long side of the rectangle. Fold the top half over the apples and press other half over the apple chunks and press the dough down around the edges. Push the dough down around the chunks. Spread the remaining apples over half of the dough. Fold the dough over the top of these apples (yes it will look weird). Gently press the sides together to form a seal. Gently press the dough together. You should have dough that looks like lumpy square. Gently press the sides together and under to form a round shape.
- Place the dough in the bowl you just used to have it rise (making sure there’s still some oil in it).
- Place the dough on a floured surface and cut into 3 or 4 pieces (depending on what type of braid you want). Shape into long logs of dough (not too thin and don’t worry if a piece of apple pops out, just stick it back in) and braid.
- Place the dough on parchment paper covered cookie sheet and brush the top with half the beaten egg.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Let challah rise 35 to 45 minutes. Brush with the remaining egg wash (you can sprinkle the top sugar if you like).
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown.
My files source unknown
5 Pounds of Flour Challah (pareve)
Yields 3 challahs
(You’ll need a really big-bowl electric mixer for this one or you’ll need to make it by hand)
- 3 cups warm water
- ¼ cup yeast
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups oil
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup chopped dried apricots
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 2 Tablespoons of salt
- 1 (5-lb.) bag bread flour
- 1 egg and 1 Tablespoon of water combined for wash
- In the bowl of an electric mixer (with a bread hook) combine the 3 cups of warm water, 3 cups of flour (from the 5 lbs you are using) and the yeast. Mix to combine and let set for about 10 minutes.
- In another bowl combine the eggs, oil, and honey, sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix to combine then add this mixture to the yeast mixture. Mix well to combine.
- With the mixer running add the flour a cup at a time. When about 2/3’s of the flour is added take the bowl out of the mixer and add the raisins and apricots and remaining flour by hand.
- When the flour is totally incorporated knead the dough, by hand for 3 or 4 more minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl and let the dough rise until twice its original size, 2 to 3 hours.
- Punch the dough down then cut the dough into 3 pieces.
- Shape however you like and then place them on parchment paper covered cookie sheets.
- Let rise for 35 to 45 minutes.
- Brush the top with egg wash.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Modified from yummly.com
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Challah (pareve)
Yields 1 challah
- ¾ cup water (you may need a bit more)
- 1 package rapid rise yeast
- 5 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup oil
- 3 cups flour
- 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
- ½ cup chocolate chips (pareve)
- 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water for the egg wash
- In a bowl combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- Add the eggs and oil to the yeast mixture and mix to combine.
- In another bowl combine the remaining sugar, flour, and cocoa powder. Combine the two mixtures and gently mix to combine. You may need to add a bit more water if the dough is too stiff.
- Sprinkle a little flour on a counter or board and knead for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place, covered, for about 2 hours (it should double in size)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Separate the dough into 4 strands and braid the challah (or you can make it into a round loaf). Brush the egg wash on top. Make sure you poke the chips into the dough so they don’t burn while it’s baking.
- Bake the challah for 25 to 30 minutes.
Modified from smittenkitchen.com
Extra-Special Holiday Challah Topping (pareve)
Covers 1 to 2 challahs, depending on size
You can decorate your homemade or not-so-homemade challah with a little bit of a glaze and these terrific toppings. I love using almond extract as the liquid and toasted almonds on top
- Approx 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons of orange juice, almond extract, non-dairy substitute or water, depending on how thick you like your topping
- Chopped pecans
- Slivered almonds, toasted
- Chopped pistachios
- Dried apricots (chopped small)
- Chopped golden raisins or dried cranberries
- Mix 1 cup sugar with a few drops of liquid until it’s a thick spreading consistency (be sure it’s not too thin).
- Use a spoon to drizzle the topping over the challah (don’t use too much). As soon as you drizzle the topping over the challah gently sprinkle whatever topping you’re using over the challah and press it into the topping.
- Do this just an hour or so before serving. Don’t put the topping on and then try and freeze the challah.
My files, source unknown
© Eileen Goltz challah 14
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.