Last week I received in the mail a special package, containing a rare item not seen in these parts since late February. My dealer, who is my sister-in-law, sent me a small pouch of yeast, enough for baking several loaves of bread. She came upon this yeast because a co-op in her neighborhood bought a gigantic package of yeast (the only volume that can be bought these days) and then divvied it up into reasonable family-sized amounts. I am grateful to benefit from their resourcefulness.
The challah recipe I have made in the past is for a "congregation-sized" loaf, or 24 minyan-sized loaves. But our congregation of three people can't and shouldn't eat that much challah in a short period of time. The freezer is still chock full of stuff, so there's no room for freezing extra bread.
The recipe for congregation-sized challah calls for 6 cups of flour. The recipe below calls for 4 cups. So this is what I made today.
I do not have bread flour. I used all-purpose flour. I used honey instead of sugar. I kneaded the dough by hand, a very satisfying activity.
MAKES 1 loaf (about 20 slices)
1 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
1/4 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil, such as canola (or ¼ cup melted butter)
1. Dissolve the yeast. Place the water in a small bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and a healthy pinch of sugar, and stir to combine. Let stand until you see a thin frothy layer across the top, 5 to 10 minutes. This means that the yeast is active and ready to use. (If you do not see this or if your yeast won't dissolve, it has likely expired and you'll need to purchase new yeast.)
(The original recipe had steps 2 and 3 reversed. It seems better and easier to me to add the flour last.)
2. Add the eggs, yolk, and oil. Stir the yeast-water mixture. Add the sugar, salt, eggs, egg yolk, and oil.
3. Add the flour. Add 4 cups of the flour.
4. Mix to form a shaggy dough. Mix everything with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
5. Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes. Fit the mixer with the hook attachment and knead on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.) If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.
6. Let the dough rise until doubled. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place somewhere warm. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
7. Divide the dough and roll into ropes. Divide the dough into equal pieces (3 or 4 or 6), depending on the type of braid you'd like to do. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16 inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and then try again.
I did a 4-strand braid. The main thing to remember is 4 over 2, then 1 over 3, then 2 over 3. Watch this video for details on a 4-strand braid.
8. Braid the dough. Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. If making a 3-stranded challah, braid the ropes together like braiding hair or yarn and squeeze the other ends together when complete.
9. Let the challah rise. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top and sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place away from drafts until puffed and pillowy, about 1 hour.
10. Brush the challah with egg white. About 20 minutes before baking, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.
11. Bake the challah 30 to 35 minutes. Bake, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the challah is deeply browned and registers 190°F in the very middle with an instant-read thermometer, 30 to 35 minutes total.
12. Cool the challah. Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm. Slice and eat.
The original recipe is from here: