Written and photographed by Raina Scherer
If I had to pinpoint a defining food of my childhood, it would without a doubt be my grandma’s challah. This recipe was passed down from my great-grandma to her and then down to me. It’s perfect for Shabbat dinner or just as an everyday bread. This challah is amazing alone, in a sandwich, as french toast, and the list goes on. In my humble opinion, it’s truly the perfect form of bread.
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 pkg. or 1 cake of yeast
- 4 tbsp. sugar
- 1 egg, room temp.
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 c. flour (approximately)
Dissolve the yeast in the water with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups of the flour and beat the batter smooth with a wooden spoon. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add the remaining sugar (3 tablespoons), salt, egg and oil and beat until blended.
Stir in more flour (about 2 cups to start) until a soft dough is formed. This may take a little more or less than 2 ½ cups. Be stingy with the flour. You do not want the dough to become dry. Mix well and let stand 10 minutes.
Turn out the dough on a floured board or surface and knead until smooth and elastic, using as little flour as possible. Keep your hands covered with flour, or you will be covered with the dough.
Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Oil the top of the dough. Cover with a cloth and let stand in a warm place for at least 45 minutes until almost double in bulk. Turn out on a floured board and knead lightly and shape. Place on greased cookie sheets. Brush tops with a mixture of egg yolk which has been mixed with a little water. You may sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Cover with a cloth and keep warm until dough has risen a little more than double in bulk.
Bake in a preheated oven at 425° for about 10 minutes. Watch closely. When the loaves begin to turn a light brown, reduce the oven temperature to 350° and continue baking until the bread is golden brown. (Sometimes I like to check the middle with a thermometer for 190°). Good Luck!