When my children were younger, I baked fresh challahs for them every Yom Tov. Now that they are grown and no longer living at home, I still bake challahs for the holidays, but I give them to friends.
This is my most favorite recipe for challah, given to me many years ago by the late Marion Markovitz, who was very active in the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. For the High Holidays, you can make the challahs in round pans. I used to make this recipe in an angel food cake pan, saving a bit of dough to braid and lay on top.
Every time I make this recipe, when I say the bracha for taking challah, I also say, “Thank you, Marion.”
Aunt Ruth’s Beautiful, Delicious, Magnificent Challah (I Don’t Mean to Boast, but It’s True)
Mix together 2 packages of dry yeast plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, with ½ cup warm water (not too hot) and allow to rise for 10-15 minutes or however long it takes to rise.
Coat mixing bowl with 1 cup oil. Add ¼ cup honey and ¼ cup sugar for lovely texture.
In a separate bowl beat 4 large eggs plus 2/3 [should be in fractions font] cup water. Add to above with the yeast mixture.
With dough hook, slowly beat in approximately 6½ cups of bread flour, ¼ cup at a time. I never measure how much flour I add because the dough will tell me when it is not sticky and is very pliable. You want a soft, sort of moist dough, not one that is dry and crumbly.
During the last addition of flour you may add 2 cups yellow raisins. First soak the raisins in orange juice (for sweetness) for about 10 minutes to plump them up. I like raisins, but a lot of people don’t. For the holidays, I use raisins. It sets the challah apart from the everyday challahs.
Beat dough with dough hook until dough starts to climb up the beaters. I take the dough out of the bowl, plop it on lightly floured counter and knead it for about 15 minutes.
Oil bottom of the bowl from which it came, plop in dough, slightly oil top, cover with very lightly oiled plastic wrap, and allow to rise until double in bulk. Don’t rush this step. It takes approximately 1-1½ hours to rise, depending on humidity.
After it has risen, punch the little darling down.
Turn dough out onto very lightly floured counter. Now you can form it into a shape and use whatever pans you desire. Put in lightly oiled pans, cover again and allow to rise until double in bulk. Brush with egg yolk to which a bit of orange juice or water has been added. You can also add sesame or poppy seeds.
Bake at 350 degrees F. For 4 small challahs in small loaf pans, bake for 25-30 minutes. For 2 braided challahs, bake on cookie sheet for about 45 minutes. For 1 large challah, you can bake in angel food tube pan for about an hour. Always check baking in the last 10-15 minutes to see if challahs are browning too fast. If they are, cover lightly with aluminum foil.
P.S. The dough can be mixed by hand, rather than with an electric mixer, it’s just a lot more work. PJC
Ruth Stone Lasday, 90, lives in Squirrel Hill.