I share this recipe with a nod to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Manhattan, New York City. I have adapted and used this recipe of theirs, which a friend shared with me, since that first time I made challah so long ago. Specifically, she said that it was used in a Mommy and Me cooking class for two to three-year-olds and I always figured if these little kids can make challah, then so could I!
2 ¼ teaspoons loose yeast + 1 teaspoon sugar + 1 cup very warm water (almost too warm, but not hot!)
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
4+ cups flour
Mix yeast, sugar, and warm water together in a small bowl; let stand approximately ten minutes. This mixture will start to bubble.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, mix together eggs, salt, sugar, oil, and two cups flour. Now would be a great time to say, “I am making this dough in the merit of ____” (name someone…maybe a friend who is sick that week, or someone you are happy for, sad for, mad at, etc.)
Add yeast mixture (1) to flour mixture (2).
Add approximately 1 ½ cups of flour to the mixture. Dough should start to form a ball, separating from the bowl.
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead, lifting up with one hand and then the other. This should take at least five minutes as dough becomes increasingly elastic. If necessary, add a bit more flour to the dough if still sticky. Knead dough into a ball.
Place the dough back into oiled bowl, cover and place the covered bowl somewhere warm for 1-1 ½ hours to rise; it will approximately double in volume.
Preheat oven to 375°. Remove the cover from bowl, place dough on floured surface. Take a small piece of dough (roughly the size of an egg), double wrap in plastic wrap and say the prayer over separating the challah (technically, you’re only supposed to say the prayer if more than five pounds of flour are used, but more on that later).* Discard this piece of wrapped dough and continue.
Punch out dough one more time. Cut the dough into two balls, one for each challah. Then divide each ball into three equal pieces. Roll out each piece, crimp together at the top and braid into a loaf. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with second ball of dough. You may let the dough rise again at this step.
Paint each challah with a mixture of egg yolk plus a little water.
Place braided dough on a greased baking sheet and bake approximately 23-30 minutes, or until bread has risen and is golden brown. Remove, let cool.
Place challah on platter, cover and wait for Shabbas dinner. Eat and enjoy!
*Baruch Ata A-Do-Nay Elo-haynu Melech Ha-Olam Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav V’Tziyvanu L”Hafrish Challah.
(Blessed are You, Lord, Our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to separate the Challah.)
Excerpted with permission from “Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs” to be published by She Writes Press.
Beth Ricanati, MD has built her career around bringing wellness into women’s everyday lives, especially busy moms juggling life and children. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and completed her internal medicine residency at Columbia Presbyterian in NYC. She spent ten years in practice at the Columbia Presbyterian’s Women’s Health Center, the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Women’s Health, and the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. Her upcoming book, Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs debuts September 18, 2018. You can find her at https://housecallsforwellness.com/ and on Instagram @housecallsforwellness