Izzy Eats: The art of raising a gourmand, one bite at a time

Stirring tales of eating, cooking and foraging in my never-ending quest to provide, great-tasting (local and organic whenever possible) EATS for me and my boy(s).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rosh Hashanah Is Almost Here: Time To Bake The Challah

Not your Bubbe's challah mind you, because it contains milk and butter, both verboten if you are kosher and plan to serve this challah with meat, which is often the case at holiday meals. Traditional challah is prepared with oil so that it will be Pareve and can be served with both dairy and meat meals.

It is the forbidden milk and butter which set this challah apart, imparting a richness unrivaled by the oil versions. If you are a secular Jew, as I, then this is the challah for you. It has been my holiday challah for years and continually receives rave reviews.

Be sure to follow the directions carefully and don't allow your dough to rise too much, otherwise you risk ending up with a challah pancake, as I did last year.

2 cups milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon cold water
poppy seeds


1. Bring milk, 6 tablespoons of butter, and the sugar to a boil together in a medium-size saucepan. Remove from heat, pour into a large mixing bowl, and let cool to lukewarm (105° to 115° F).

2. Stir yeast into the milk mixture and let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Beat 3 of the eggs well in a small bowl, and stir them and the salt into the milk-and-yeast mixture.

4. Stir in 5 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you achieve a sticky dough. Flour a work surface lightly and turn the dough out onto it. Wash and dry the bowl.

5. Sprinkle additional flour over the dough and begin kneading, adding more flour as necessary, until you have smooth elastic dough.

6. Smear the reserved 2 tablespoons of butter around the inside of the bowl and add the ball of dough into the bowl, turning to coat it lightly with butter. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside to let dough rise until tripled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cut into halves. Cut each half into 3 pieces. Roll the pieces out into long "snakes" about 18 inches long. Braid three of the snakes together into a loaf and tuck the ends under. Repeat with remaining snakes.

8. Sprinkle a large baking sheet with the cornmeal, and transfer the loaves to the sheet. Leave room between the loaves for them to rise. Cover loaves with the towel and let rise until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.

9. Preheat oven to 350° F.

10. Beat the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon cold water together well in a small bowl. Brush this egg wash evenly over the loaves. Sprinkle immediately with poppy seeds to taste.

11. Set baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when their bottoms are thumped. Cool completely on racks before wrapping. Makes 2 large loaves.*

*These freeze very well!


Carla said...

thanks! I am going to try it out and attempt do a 6 strand braid this weekend(link here to a video of it http://chaitimeblog.wordpress.com/2006/09/03/video-braiding-a-six-strand-challah/)

Izzy's Mama said...

Carla: That is ambitious for a shiksa!

Carla said...

I just finished the loaf for this year (I did 2/3 of the dough into a circle and 1/3 as a preview loaf) and it came out amazing this time! Thanks so much Lynn! I'll have pics on http://carlastastytreats.blogspot.com/

Izzy's Mama said...

Carla: Are you freezing it? Not sure if I will get to mine this year but I hope to. I usually do so the day before.

Carla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carla said...

sorry I tried to just edit that and it didn't work!

yes I decided to have a whole sort of italian-ed up rosh hashanah dinner here on next sunday so I stuck the circular braid in the freezer after it cooled but we ate the smaller loaf tonight. I have a busy work week and a lot of other dishes to prep so I figured it was good to get it out of the way - If i get to another great but if not at least its all set

they came out great http://carlastastytreats.blogspot.com/2009/09/rosh-hashana-challah-bread.html

I hope you don't mind my using your recipe!

I also have your chocolate cherry rugelah dough setting in the fridge. Thanks again!

Gail said...

Question: What kind of milk do you use in this incredible sounding challah? I usually only buy nonfat milk. Should it be 2%? Whole? Does it matter? Thanks in advance. I can't wait to make it!

Izzy's Mama said...

Gail: I use whatever milk I have around the house which would be either 2% or whole. I believe the original recipe calls for whole milk but either works fine.

Susan said...

This looks amazing!!
Question-- I want to do most of the work tonight (Wednesday) but actually do the baking on Friday before Shabbat... Is there a good stage at which I can pt the dough in the fridge/freezer?


Izzy's Mama said...

Susan: I hope this answer isn't too late. I do not recommend making the dough now and baking the challah Friday. Better to make the entire thing a once and freeze. Just take it out Friday and you are all set. It freezes beautifully.
This is not the type of dough that will benefit from refrigeration or freezing. Hope this helps.

Superyalda said...

My first challah was a tremendous success, thanks to your recipe!
I followed the ingredients and dough preparation precisely and it is really perfect.
I did add a few chopped threads of saffron and a pinch of vanilla bean to the milk before boiling ... just to give it a bit more color and sweet aroma. I also added one cup of soaked raisins to make it more festive. I made it for sukkot and the older women there (75+) reminisced incessantly about their memories.
I also chose to let it rise one additional time. I read it helps with the texture but being a first-timer, I had no idea.
I also did a four strand braid, giving it more height.
OK, I know it sounds like I changed a lot but this recipe was the base for one of the best challahs I've ever eaten! Thank you!

Izzy's Mama said...

Superyalda: So glad that your challah turned out well. You must know your stuff since tweaking recipes doesn't always work out. Where did you come up with the idea of saffron in Challah? p.s. thanks for writing. I haven't blogged in quite awhile so your words may just motivate me to start posting again. In fact I made a new challah this year that was quite a hit.