September 8, 2010

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Makes 1 round

3 1/2 cups flour
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup hot tap water
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, at room temperature
2 eggs
Extra flour (for sprinkling)
Oil (for the bowl)
3/4 cups dark or golden raisins (optional)
1 extra egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk or water (for egg wash)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together 1 cup flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt.

2. Heat water and butter or margarine to 120 to 130 degrees. In a microwave, this will take 45 seconds to 1 minute at high power. Pour the liquids into the flour mixture and beat for 1 minute. Add eggs and 3/4 cup flour. Beat until combined. Gradually stir in remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough is smooth, elastic, and soft.

3. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise for 20 minutes.

4. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and punch it down. Roll it into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick, pressing out as much air as possible. If using raisins, sprinkle them evenly over the dough. With the long side of the rectangle closest to you, roll it into a long strand, jellyroll style. Pinch the long seam so it holds together. Working out from the middle, roll the strand until it is uniform in width and just under 30 inches long. Roll out the two ends in your hands. At this point you should have two skinny ends and a fat middle.

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

6. Starting with one of the skinny ends, coil the strand. Don’t stretch it as you wrap it around. When you have a coil, pinch the other skinny end to the side. Transfer the challah to the baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.

7. Let the challah sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Set the oven at 350 degrees.

8. Bake the challah for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with egg wash. Continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the loaf is golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. (Total baking time is 30 to 35 minutes.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Andrea Pyenson

Adapted from Temple Shir Tikva