Recipe: Holiday challahs

Holiday Challah

BY MARGI LENGA KAHN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup golden raisins, soaked in 2 cups very hot water for 20 minutes 
  • 1 tbsp. active dry yeast 
  • ½ cup (and a pinch) granulated sugar 
  • 6 cups (approximately) all-purpose flour or bread flour  
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange 
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten 
  • ¼ tsp. ground coriander 
  • 1½ tsp. salt 
  • 6 tbsp. canola oil, plus more for oiling bags or bowl, and baking pan 
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water for egg wash 
  • Sesame, poppy, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or a combination, for sprinkling (optional) 
  • Honey, for serving 

Directions: 

1. Drain raisins in a colander set over a medium bowl; reserve raisins. 

2. Measure the soaking water and add enough tap water to measure 2 cups. (Make sure that water is warm, about 110 degrees, not hot!) Transfer water to the bowl of a stand mixer, add pinch of sugar and all of the yeast, and stir well. Let mixture rest for five to 10 minutes, or until it becomes foamy. 

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3. Add 6 c. flour, grated orange zest, beaten eggs, remaining ½ c. granulated sugar, ground coriander, salt and 6 tbsp. oil to bowl with water and yeast. With dough hook in place, set bowl on mixer stand and mix on slow until ingredients come together, three to four minutes. Increase mixer speed to medium and continue mixing for five to 10 minutes, adding a handful or two more of flour if mixture appears too wet. Dough should be smooth and elastic when finished. 

(Dough also can be mixed together by hand in a large bowl. Add only 5¾ c. flour. Once all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until smooth, dusting lightly with additional flour to keep dough from being too sticky. Err on the side of a stickier dough, rather than a dry dough!) 

4.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and flatten it with your hands. Sprinkle dough evenly with the reserved soaked raisins.  Fold dough over on itself and knead briefly to evenly distribute raisins throughout dough. 

5. Lightly oil a large bowl or two zip-lock storage bags. Place all the dough in the bowl or divide it between two  bags. Turn dough to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or seal bags. Let dough sit on counter for one  hour, then transfer to the refrigerator overnight, or for as many as three days.  

6. Remove dough from refrigerator 30 minutes before forming into challahs. Oil one large pan or two smaller pans, or line them with parchment paper. 

7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide dough into halves or thirds (to make two or three challahs). Cut each piece of dough into three pieces, forming each piece into long ropes the same size, 12 to 16 inches. Pinch three ropes together at the top and braid them. Turn 1 inch of each end under the braid and seal so that braid does not come apart when baking. Continue braiding remaining ropes. (Alternatively, you could divide each piece of dough into quarters and form challahs into a basket-weave. Check for directions online.) Cover breads lightly with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

9. Remove plastic, and gently brush challahs with egg wash. Sprinkle with one type of seed, or a mixture, if using.  Place breads in preheated oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until light golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped with fingers. Immediately transfer challahs from baking sheet(s) to a cooling rack.  Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with honey. 

Makes two large or three small challahs.