You get those people who only eat a slice of Challah as a means to an end (ie main course), and you get those who actually enjoy and relish in the deliciousness of it. If you came to my house for Shabbos, you’ll know full well to look forward to mine (and I will make you eat more than 1 piece. At least). I take great pride in these braided breaded loaves of goodness.
This recipe comes from a lady in our community, who’s children suffer from food allergies. As well as having a book, she got published in a South African publication called the Jewish Life. The recipe is so delicious, you wouldn’t even know it was “missing an ingredient”.
I don’t have time to bake challah just before Shabbos, so I usually make a big batch on a Sunday and put them in the freezer (I promise you can’t taste the difference). This past Sunday our kitchen transformed to a challah factory and we made a double batch: twelve challot.
The basic recipe is simple and delicious. Use a mixer or kneed by hand or whatever works best for you. The thing that makes me challto special are all the different variations I make 😉 I’ll list those at the bottom of this post for your entertainement.
- 3 x 10g sachets of dry active yeast
- 1.5 cups of sugar (but you can substitute some of it with honey if you like)
- 6 cups warm (not hot!) water
- 1.5 cups of sunflower or olive oil (I think we even use canola oil. I don’t know the differences here)
- 2tbsp salt
- 1 x 2.5kg bread flour (I use cake flour. Feel free to use brown bread flour, or half and half)
- Place the yeast, sugar in a bowl and cover with water to prove for 5 – 7 minutes.
- Add oil, salt and stir.
- Add the flour a 1/4 of the packet at a time. Start mixing with a wooden spoon until that becomes too dificult, then use your hands in the bowl until it starts to come together.
- Tip it out the bowl and kneed for about 15 minutes. Push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, then pull it back towards you as if you’re folding it in half. Don’t take my word on how to kneed dough, I always look like a fool while doing so.
- If the dough gets too stiff, allow it some time to relax before kneeding again.
- Put the dough back in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth until it doubles in size (on a warm day about 45 minutes will do, it’ll take longer on cold days. I usually go about with something else for a while)
- Once it has risen to double it’s size punch it down again.
- Begin plaiting! This recipe makes 6 challot. So separate your dough into 6. I usually do this by cutting in half and then each half into 3s. Personally I prefer a 6-braid (which is way more effort), I just feel it looks more impressive.
- Bake for half an hour at 180 degrees. My oven is a bit wonky, so I usually switch the trays halfway through.
The thing is, that I’m always making some form of variation to my challah (I’ve never made it plain, or even just with poppy/sesame seeds). NOW, if you want yourself some really fancy challah – keep reading:
- Chocolate. Kneed chocolate chips into your dough before braiding, and if you have pareve chocolate spread feel free to put some on top before baking.
- Sprinkles. Throw some on top. They melt just a little and the sweetness is extra delicious.
- Halva. I bought halva spread in Israel and I’ve spread some of that on top too.
- Onion. This is a goodie. Fry some onions and put it on top before baking. If you’re really adventurous, you can kneed it into your dough, but be warned, it does make it a little harder to braid.
- Zaatar & Paprika. This one aside for tasting delicious, also looks beautiful. Colour each strand of your challah, 1 with zaatar, 1 with paprika, and leave one plain. They look so beautiful braided together. Top with sesame seeds. Tip: Instead of just kneeding the spices in, actually rub the spice onto the dough first, then the colour will really show.
- Pesto and Sundried tomato. I tried to do this like I do with the zaatar and paprika, but its really difficult to get these kneeded into the dough because they’re so oily. Try if you like, it’s worth it. If you’re putting pesto on top, rather do so towards the end of the cooking time. You don’t want it to burn like mine did once.
To freeze, I wrap in foil, label with a marker and then put in a freezer bag. They always come out really fresh, even from the freezer. Pop on the hot tray before your Shabbos comes in, and viola!
The Challah Factory in progress. 3 different challot pictures, another type already in the oven. And yes, that is a 1kg bag of chocolate chips on the side.
Chocolate and sprinkle variations.
Onion is one of my favourites.
L-R: Zaatar and Paprika, Halva, Chocolate, Zaatar & Paprika
B: Sprinkles, Chocolate
Sliced Zaatar & Paprika challah. You can’t see the colours so clearly, but I promise in real life it’s beautiful.
Sheva Brachot challah in the initials of the bride and groom. So festive. Topped these ones with sprinkles.
Let me know if you try this recipe, or any of the above variations. Do you have a favourite challah recipe or a way to make it special?