Celebrating Modern Jewish Living Through Food, Tradition, and Family
This classic challah recipe is the only Jewish bread recipe you’ll ever need.
The Backstory: Nothing signifies the end of the week and the start of Shabbat quite like delicious classic Challah. This bread is one of the most well-recognized, symbolic and celebrated foods in Judaism. It’s that part of the table that joins people together. For me, Challah represents family – a fresh loaf is a staple at our Shabbat table and, like the braids of the bread, family members are connected (whether you like it or not!). While some of your loaves may come out better than others, the knots of Challah lie interlaced and form a beautiful creation that reflects wholeness, hard work and fulfillment. More of the Backstory after the recipe…
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar plus 3 tsp
- 8 cups flour
- 2 1/4 cups warm water
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil plus 1 tbsp
- 2 tbsp course salt
- poppy or sesame seeds (optional)
Place the yeast, 2 teaspoons of the sugar and 2 teaspoons of the flour in a tall tumbler. Add ¾ cup of the water and mix well. Set in a warm place and leave covered.
In a big bowl, place 4 cups of flour. Add 1½ cups of the water, ½ cup of the oil, ½ cup of the sugar, the salt and 2 of the eggs and mix well.
When the yeast mixture reaches the top of the glass, add to the batter in the bowl. Mix well and gradually add 3 more cups of the flour. Knead the mixture right in the bowl until very smooth and elastic. Cover and set in a warm place for about 5 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
Knock the dough down and add about ¾ cup more of the flour, kneading well to give a soft but not sticky dough. Oil the top of the dough with the remaining oil. Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk, which should take another 2½ hours.
Knead again. Divide the dough in two. Shape into two loaves to fit in loaf tins, or braid on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, which should be another hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the remaining egg and sugar and brush over the top of the loaves. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until done.
- The rest time depends on the type of yeast you use – if you use quick rise yeast, you can cut down your waiting time.
- Use leftover Challah for French Toast or bread pudding.
- Topping variations can include sesame or poppy seeds, or salt.
- For an extra gorgeous sheen, brush your Challah with egg wash twice.
…The Backstory continues: While I only make my own Challah on occasion, I love the process. Waiting for your dough to expand in size, only to punch it down and knead it can be a calming, therapeutic process. It also has a way of making you feel connected to so many others who have done the same for generations. If you have the time to do it, there’s nothing quite like it and I promise that you home will smell and feel as warm and inviting like never before.
I hope you enjoy – Shabbat Shalom!