I too made my challah recipe today, so it appears to be a true bake-off. As soon as I began gathering my ingredients I came to the the startling realization that I have not made challah in almost 9 months, probably the longest I have ever gone. Just to differentiate from Gordon, I decided to do mine by hand, a task I have not undertaken since the magical day over five years ago when my KitchenAid stand mixer entered my life. As Gordon pointed out it is traditional at Rosh Hashana to bake your challah in rounds to symbolize the cycle of the year, but I never really mastered the spiral braid so I made some challah rolls as a smaller nod to the holiday.
My challah recipe for 2 loaves
1 3/4 C warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C honey
3 tsp salt
1/2 C oil
2 egg yolks
6-7 cups flour
2 Tb water
2 tsp sugar
1. stir in yeast, water, and a pinch of sugar. let stand 5 min until yeast is active and bubbly
2. briskly stir in sugar, honey, salt, then add oil, eggs, yolks and 5 C flour.
3. Stir until lightly combined. Let stand 10-20 min to absorb flour.
4. Knead on flat surface until well combined, adding remaining flour to make soft, smooth dough (it should not be too sticky). How much flour you need depends on the humidity of the day.
5. Let dough rest 10 min then flatten
6. Place in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise until it is double in size ( about 45-90 min depending on the temperature)
7. Braid into 2 loaves
8. Place on greased baking sheet.
9. Mix ingredients for the egg wash and brush loaf. If you like seeds sprinkle them on the loaf at this point.
10. Let rise 20-30 min
11. Preheat oven to 400
12. Bake 12 min then reduce heat to 350 and bake another 25 min.
It got particularly warm in my kitchen this afternoon due to running the stove and oven for so long, so the yeast went a bit crazy and the loaf is a bit puffier than usual, but still incredibly tasty. Gordon inspired me to do a little tweaking as well, and I figure the best way to make changes is to make it worse for you. This time around I replaced the vegetable oil with shortening (I know, but it was organic and supposedly free of trans-fats). This did take an extra step combining the shortening with the flour before adding to the other liquids, but man did this produce some really soft and fluffy bread. Keep in mind if you are making Challah for the first time that this a process that will get you messy. Don’t be afraid to really get your hands in things, just make sure you wash them first and also keep a dish towel handy for when your friend calls in the middle of it to discuss the day’s stock market surge.