Bread features prominently in many types of cuisine. For example, foodies may not be able to imagine indulging in their favorite Indian dish without some naan, while freshly baked semolina bread often makes for the perfect complement to Italian fare.
Bread also features prominently in Jewish cuisine. Challah is a Jewish bread that’s typically baked to celebrate the Sabbath. Though challah can be purchased at various stores and bakeries, baking it at home can provide a sense of accomplishment as well as a delicious finished product. Anyone interested in making homemade challah can try this recipe, courtesy of MyJewishLearning.com.
Makes 2 loaves
11⁄8 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
41⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten, plus 1 whole egg for glazing
1⁄2 tablespoon salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)
Dissolve the yeast in the water with 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Beat well and leave 10 minutes, until it froths.
In a very large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Then add the salt, sugar and oil and beat again. Add the frothy yeast mixture and beat well. Now add the flour gradually, and just enough to make a soft dough that holds together, mixing well, first with a large spoon, then working it in with your hands.
Knead vigorously for about 15 minutes, until it is very smooth and elastic, adding flour if the dough is too sticky.
Pour a little oil in the bowl and turn the dough, so that it is greased all over.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and put it in a warm place to rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until it has doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and knead again, then divide into 2 pieces to make 2 loaves.
Braid challah into desired shape and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, leaving plenty of room for them to expand. Allow them to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Now brush gently with the beaten egg. If you want to sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, brush first with the whole beaten egg. (The seeds stick better if the white is there, too.)
Bake in an oven preheated to 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes or until the loaves are beautifully golden-brown. They are done if they sound hollow when you tap the bottoms.