Easy Challah Bread

  • 2 packages of yeast (regular or fast rising)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 4 eggs   (3 for dough, 1 for egg wash)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 to 7 cups all purpose unbleached flour*
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Dissolve yeast and tbsp of sugar in warm water. Allow yeast to develop until foamy. Mix developed yeast mixture with 3 of the eggs, oil, salt, and honey with a whisk. Add 4 cups of the flour. Then begin adding more flour ½ cup at a time until dough begins pulling away from the bowl. (This may take only 1 cup or 2 or 3 more) Dump out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until dough ball is supple. Place dough ball into a large bowl sprayed with Pam. Cover with dry towel and let rise in a draft free area for 3 to 5 hours. By the time 5 hours have passed, dough should be more than doubled. However, sometimes (depending on the weather and humidity) it will not double. Don’t worry if this happens, the bread will still turn out.

Grease or spray a large cookie sheet with oil or use parchment paper (the bread will stick to foil). Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Before kneading the dough again, flatten it by patting it out with flat palms. Then, divide it into sections of either 2, 4, or 6 equal parts, depending on how many loaves you want to make. I suggest dividing the dough into 4 sections on your first try. This will give you 4 descent sized loaves: 2 loaves for 2 Shabbats! (2 loaves represent the two portions of manna that fell on Friday, enough for that day and for the Shabbat [Ex.16:22-26]) .

Take one of the 4 sections and divide it into 3 pieces. Knead one of the pieces and then roll between hands to form a rope-like strand. Repeat with other 2 pieces. Then, take all three strands and pinch one end of each together. Begin braiding just as you would hair. Pinch the bottom ends together and place on cookie sheet. Repeat process with remaining 3 sections. Four stranded braids are also easy to form, for a video example, click here.

Allow the braided loaves of dough to rise again on the cookie sheet for another hour, covered by a dry cloth or towel. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, take the last egg and mix with a tbsp of water to make an egg wash. Brush the loaves thoroughly and sprinkle sesame seeds (if using) on all or some of the loaves to represent the seeds or stars of  Abraham. Place on center oven rack. Baking time depends on the size of your loaves . Four loaves usually takes about 22-25 minutes in my oven. They should be golden brown and sound “hollow” when you tap them on the outside.

They are delicious right out of the oven, especially when served with honey for dipping. Store them either well wrapped or in a gallon size freezer baggie. If you made four or more loaves, you can freeze them after they have cooled in gallon sized freezer bags. It takes about 2 hours for them to thaw in the kitchen counter. I usually pull them out Friday morning for Shabbat.

*Sometimes, I use some whole wheat flour, but the loaves are dry if you use too much. I still start with 4 cups of the white, and then add whole wheat from that point. This will keep them from being too dry. On your first try, I would use all white.

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