Few things say “Shabbat” quite like the warm, heavenly smell of baking challah — the perfect signal that it’s time to relax and unwind. From the “Spice Girls’” Israeli-American cookbook, here’s a parve challah recipe that’s rich, fluffy and sweet. B’te-avon (bon appétit)!
Ingredients (Makes 6 challot):
Note: Many challah recipes, like this one, call for more than 12 cups of flour, so you can fulfill the mitzvah of Hafrashat Challah (saying the blessing over separating the challah). You can halve this recipe with excellent results.
4 cups warm water (105 to 115°F)
6 packages active quick-rising dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
5 lb. bag of bread flour (14 cups, of which you will use 12)
2 cups + 1 tablespoon sugar
1½ tbsp. salt
4 large eggs
1½ cups canola or vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
5-7 loaf pans or 3-4 baking sheets
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Open oven door.
- Combine water and yeast in a medium bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar. Place the mixture on the open oven door (the small amount of heat helps proof the yeast) and let stand 10 minutes. The mixture will be bubbly. Turn oven off.
- Place 12 cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl. (Set aside the remaining 2 for future use.) Stir in the sugar and salt, mixing well. Push the flour against the sides of the bowl, leaving a well in the center.
- Pour the yeast mixture, 4 eggs and the oil into the well; mix with a wooden spoon until you can no longer stir it.
- Knead the dough with your hands until it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. The dough should be smooth and springy. If the dough is still very sticky, knead in a small amount of flour until it is smooth.
- Brush the top of the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a dry towel. Let it rise for 1½ hours in a warm room.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down. (For those doing Hafrashat Challah, this is when a piece of dough is taken out and the blessing is recited.) Divide the dough into 5-7 sections, for the number of challahs you will bake.
- Divide each of those sections into 3 equal parts. Roll each to make a thick rope with slightly tapered ends.
- Working on one challah at a time, place three ropes of dough side by side on a lightly greased baking sheet and pinch the top ends together. Braid the dough and pinch the bottom ends together.
- Repeat with remaining dough. (Unrisen challot may be placed in a foil pan, wrapped in plastic and foil, and frozen for future baking.)
- Transfer challot into pre-sprayed 10”x14” loaf pans or onto pre-sprayed baking sheets. (For baking sheets, place two loaves on one sheet, side by side, width-wise.) Brush loaves with beaten egg and let rise uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Bake challot 25 to 30 minutes (reversing the direction of the baking sheet after 15 to 20 minutes), until challah is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on wire racks.