1.5 cups very warm water
1⁄2 cup honey (best if locally sourced, a little oil in the cup measure helps the honey fall out)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 full eggs plus 1 yolk
1 1⁄8 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup oil
4-6 cups all-purpose flour (depends on the humidity – and note that bread flour produces more robust gluten)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
a splash of water for lighter coat
I work my dough by hand, but Rose offers these instructions for using a bread machine:
- Place the water, egg yolks, salt oil, flour, honey, and yeast in the bread machine pan, according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Process the ingredients in the dough cycle.
- Remove immediately when the machine beeps.
- In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the honey in the water and dust the yeast on top – leave until foamy (10-15 min, if nothings happening the water may not have been warm enough or the yeast defective)
- Add the oil, salt, and beaten eggs to the bowl and mix (I use a wooden spoon & fry the remaining egg white as a snack for later)
- Add flour a cup at a time and mix completely before adding each cup (“You can always add, but you can’t always remove”)
- When it’s too thick to mix with a spoon, put the dough on a clean surface and knead, adding flour as necessary. (To work out the stickiness, more kneading will ultimately produce higher quality dough than over-adding more flour)
- After at least ten minutes of kneading, the dough should no longer be sticky, but rather smooth and elastic, springing back when you poke it. (My goal is to pass the “windowpane test,” showing that the gluten is well-developed enough to stretch into a thin/see-through membrane without breaking)
- Coat a large bowl with a small amount of oil – put the dough in and turn it around so it is completely covered (My friend Rachel likes to describe the dough as looking like a “fat baby,” if you’re looking for a visual metric)
- Cover the bowl with a wet cloth and put it somewhere warm to rise for an hour/ till it is double in size (I turn on the oven until I hear the gas come on, then turn it off and put the bowl in)
- Set a timer so you don’t forget! It’s a sad morning when you’ve gotta pitch a whole bowl of dough left in the oven to rise overnight…
- After the dough has doubled (an hour or so) take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for a minute or two. Place it back in the bowl with more oil if needed, so it doesn’t stick to the bowl.
- If you plan to braid and bake the same day, cover and let rise for another hour.
- If you plan to braid and bake the next day, cover the bowl with plastic wrap after the short kneading and refrigerate overnight.
Braid as your heart moves you
Don’t forget to take the dough out of the fridge & let it warm up still in the plastic wrap for an hour before braiding.
- Place on baking sheet – I use silicone baking mats because of their supernatural non-stick/burn-detering properties
- Let the challah rise, covered, for 30-60 minutes.
- While rising:
○ Preheat the oven to 400-425 degrees.
○ Boil a pot of water (in an oven-safe pot)
- Brush the challah with the beaten egg. This can be done right before baking and/or multiple times during baking, especially as the challah expands!
- If you’re sprinkling sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc, do it late in the bake and consider how the egg wash effects sticking.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes. I bake challah much more by look, smell, feel, even sound than I do by time.
- Look: Do I like the colouration? Is the browning even? Do ingredients like chocolate chips and raisins look burnt?
- Smell: I tend to do a new egg wash each time I smell the challah a-new from the other room. Learn what it smells like when it’s getting done.
- Feel: How doughy is it when I poke it? If I’m trying to adjust the shape, I’m careful not to break the strands
- Sound: A classic challah move is to give it a knock on the bottom to see how hollow it is! I like it chewier, though~
- Whatever you do, keep an eye on it in the oven because different ovens cook differently.
- Cool & Serve!