One of the smells which instantly returns me to my childhood is fresh baked challah. I salivate just thinking about the aroma in my home those cold winter mornings when mom would say, “Challah day”. It was a tradition. Every snow day, we’d clear out the kitchen and transform it into challah central. We’d pour and mix and roll and knead and braid… and a few hours later, we’d have the most delicious bread I’ve ever tasted in my life… and enough for my family, our friends, the neighbors and pretty much all of my teachers.
With winter soon approaching, I wanted to share (in my humble opinion) the recipe for the world’s best challah. Bon Appetit.
2 cups lukewarm water
3 packages yeast
1 1/2 cups sugar (this is your key ingredient. this is WHY it’s the best challah in the world…because unlike most challahs, it is SWEET)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (the concept of ‘salt‘ was forbidden in my house; however, it does add necessary flavor)
2 sticks of butter (you can substitute margerine, but really… butter does taste better)
8 cups flour
Mix water and yeast in an enormous bowl. Add 3 cups flour and 1 cup sugar. Stir with fork and let rise for an half hour in a warm place. (the oven is a great place)
In another bowl, measure five cups of flour, salt, and a half cut of sugar. Add the butter and cut with a pastry cutter/knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.
At the end of a half hour, add 4 beaten eggs to the yeast mixture and stir well. Mix will decrease in volume.
Add the flour-butter mixture to yeast mixture and work in bowl. If sticky, add up to two more cups of flour. Knead well on a floured board until smooth and elastic.
Put in oiled bowl and cover with clean dish towel, dusted with flour. Put in warm place and let rise two hours or until doubled in size.
Punch down. Knead lightly for a minute or two.
Divide dough into parts. This recipe makes three medium loaves or two large loaves. (we often tripled or quadrupled the recipe in order to produce more… you can also make mini braided, individual challahs)
Braid the loaves. Place on oiled baking sheets, cover and let rise in warm place as long as possible. Three to five hours is just fine. The longer you let it rise, being careful not to kill the yeast, the lighter your loaves will be. When it is done rising, brush the tops with beaten egg, add sesame or poppy seeds or raisins, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.