The following article from Aish.com provides six different challah recipes, including eggless, whole wheat, and the “always successful” recipe, reprinted from “Taste of Shabbos: The Complete Cookbook,” and “Adventures in Bubby Irma’s Kitchen.” There is a special obligation to eat two (or three) bread meals on Shabbat, which involves making the blessing over the bread over two whole challot. Many households prefer to make their own Shabbat challot as opposed to buying them at the store, so they can perform the mitzvah (commandment) of hafrashat challah (separating the dough). For more details on the mitzvah of hafrashat challah, click here.
ALWAYS SUCCESSFUL CHALLAH
8-9 cups flour
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/4-1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 Tbsp. Salt
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
2 oz. (50 gm.) yeast
Mix together 2 1/2 cups flour with sugar, salt, yeast (no need to dissolve first), water, and oil. Mix in 4 eggs. Beat in 11/2 cups flour very well. Add 4-5 cups flour until a very soft dough is formed. Add raisins (optional). Knead. Separate challah, if necessary. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, let warm to room temperature, 1-2 hours. Make balls, roll them into ropes, and braid (see illustration, page 122). Let rise, covered, for 1/2-1 hour. Make egg wash by beating 1 egg. Brush on challah. Bake in preheated oven at 325 degrees F. (160 degrees C.) for 30 minutes. Apply egg wash once more and bake another 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C.). Makes 4 medium-sized challahs.
SWEET HALF-AND-HALF CHALLAH
2 oz. (60 gm.) yeast
2 cups warm water
4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup honey
5-6 cups white flour
3/4 cup oil
Mix together yeast, water, honey, oil, and eggs. Add the sifted flour. Knead until dough does not stick to fingers. Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. Separate challah, if necessary. Divide the dough into 6 balls. Divide each ball into thirds and braid (see illustration, page 122). Let rise for 1 hour. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C.), for 30-45 minutes. Do not overbake. Makes 6 loaves.
BUBBIE IRMA’S CHALLAH
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups warm water
50 grams (2 oz.) yeast
8 to 9 cups flour (whole wheat and white). A combination of both flours makes the best challahs.
Mix the ingredients — putting the oil into the bowl first and then measure and add the honey — using the same measuring cup that you measured the oil in. This little trick allows the honey to run smoothly out of the measuring cup. Add the remaining ingredients in the order given.
In Israel the yeast can be purchased in two forms. One is a measured bag of 50 grams in a solid form, and the other is a bag of yeast granules. I use the yeast granules and these dissolve well, mixed into the recipe just before the flour is added. If you use the American yeast, I dissolve it in 1 cup of the warm water before putting it into the bowl.
When making my challah in an electric mixer, I let it knead for 3 minutes and then do a little hand-kneading as I transfer the dough into an oiled bowl. If it is kneaded by hand, it is necessary to knead the dough for 10 minutes.
Let the dough rise in a large bowl that has been coated with oil. When transferring the dough into the oiled bowl, be sure to turn it on all sides so that it gets a thin coating of oil. Place the bowl in a warm place until the dough is double in size — then punch down and knead a bit more.
Place the dough back in the bowl and let it rise a second time. This should take about one hour. Punch down and cut into sizes desired. For very special occasions, I make one large challah using all of the dough. When the breads are shaped, brush them generously with egg yolk and sprinkle with either poppy seeds or sesame seeds.
Bake in 350-degree oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the challah sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
EGGLESS (OR WATER) CHALLAH
2 oz. (60 gm.) yeast
1/2 cup oil
9 cups flour
1/2 cup plus
2 tsp. sugar
3 cups water
2 tsp. salt
Dissolve yeast and 2 tsp. sugar in 1/2 cup warm water. Sift flour into a very large bowl. Make a well in middle of flour. Add 2 1/2 cups water, oil, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and yeast mixture. Mix until a soft dough is formed. Knead. Separate challah, if necessary. Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel. Let dough rest until double in bulk. Punch down. Knead. Divide into 9 balls. Let dough rest 10 minutes. Roll into ropes and braid (see illustration, page 122) into 3 loaves. Let rise 20-30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C.), for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Makes 3 challahs.
2 oz. (60 gm.) yeast
1/3 cup honey
3 cups warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
10 cups whole-wheat flour
poppy, caraway, or sesame seeds
1/3 cup oil
1 egg yolk
The following “sponge method” gives whole-wheat challah a lighter texture. Activate yeast in 1/2 cup water with sugar. Beat in remaining 2 1/2 cups of water, 5 cups flour, oil, honey, 2 eggs, and salt. Dough should now resemble a cake batter. Let rise 30-60 minutes. Punch down. Add the rest of the flour slowly, while kneading, until dough no longer sticks to fingers. Separate challah, if necessary. Cover with damp towel. Allow to rise again until double in size. Punch down. Shape into loaves and braid (see illustration, page 122). Place in well-greased loaf pans. Beat egg yolk and brush over loaves. Pat on poppy, caraway, or sesame seeds. Let rise for 30 minutes. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C.) for 30 minutes. Makes 4 medium challahs.
Variation: Substitute 1 cup wheat germ for 1 cup flour, and/or 1 cup soy flour for 1 cup flour.
MEIRA’S FAMOUS CHALLAH
3 Tbsp. yeast (or 3 pkgs.)
2 1/4 cups warm water.
“soup bowl” of warm water
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
7 cups white flour
3/4 cup oil
7 cups whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
sesame seeds (optional)
Dissolve yeast in “soup bowl” of warm water with 1 Tbsp. brown sugar. Set aside to “bubble-up.” In a large bowl or pot, put in eggs, slightly beaten, add oil, brown sugar, 2 1/4 cups warm water, about a tablespoon of salt, a couple of handfuls of raisins (white raisins work best). Add the yeast mixture that has started to “bubble-up” a bit. Stir together. Add flour, alternating a couple of cups of white, then whole wheat. Use your hands and keep adding flour (you may need a little more), until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. Remove the dough and knead just a couple of minutes. Add some oil to the bowl or pot and place dough mixture back in, turning it over so that all sides are coated with oil. Take a towel dampened with warm water and cover the container. Let rise at least 1 hour. Punch down. Separate challah with a bracha, roll, and braid (see illustration, p. 122). Brush with egg wash (using 1 whole egg slightly beaten) and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired. Bake in preheated 350 degree F. (175 degrees C.) oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until challahs are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Makes about 6 loaves.
THE SPECIAL MITZVAH TO “TAKE CHALLAH”
Shabbat bread is called “challah” because it is a mitzvah to “separate challah” from bread dough, when it is made in a certain quantity. This is considered a special mitzvah for women, with its source and significance dating back to the Torah itself.
Bread, being considered the sustenance of life, was prepared, and, before being baked, a portion of the dough (called challah) was separated after reciting a blessing recognizing the act. It goes like this:
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kideshanu be-mitzvosav ve-tzivanu lehafrish challah min ha-isah.
You are blessed, Lord our God, Sovereign of the world, Who made us holy with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah from the dough.
A kezayit (approximately 1/2 oz. or 15 gm.) of dough is separated after reciting the bracha, and, since we do not have a Temple to which we bring the separated dough, we destroy it and dispose of it in a dignified manner. The most common way is to burn it in a piece of foil under the broiler, wrap it in some more foil, and throw it away. Do not eat it.
This blessing and separation applies only when you are using a recipe whose quantities are more than 3 pounds, 12 ounces (1.680 kg.) — approximately 12.4 cups of flour.
Challah is also separated without a blessing if the quantity is 1.248 kg., approximately 9 to 10 cups (but less than the 1.680 kg. discussed earlier). In this case, the size of the separation does not have to be a kezayit. (It was confusing for me at first, too!)
It is noted in each recipe at what point challah should be separated. If one decreases or increases a recipe, check the preceding paragraph to see if the new volume of flour requires the mitzvah of separation of challah.
If you forgot to separate challah, and the bread is already baked, simply place all the loaves together on one pan, say the blessing, and cut off a piece of one.
Please note that bread should not be eaten if challah was not separated. Take a look at the side panel of most boxes of matzah and you will see the words “Challah Taken.” Now you know what it means.
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