Challah is a bread for sharing.
Broken by hand (i.e. not cut with a knife) on Friday nights by many Jewish families to mark the beginning of the sabbath, challah has now become a favourite in Jewish and non Jewish homes alike. It is an enriched bread and, in its simplest form, contains sugar, eggs, and some kind of fat. Butter or chicken fat are traditional although now people tend to use vegetable oil rather than chicken fat. Braided, woven, shaped into a snail shell and decorated with seeds to symbolise mannah from heaven, Challah is delicious any time.
Ingredients - makes one big challah
500 g plain white wheat or spelt flour
200 g water (from the cold tap is fine)
5 g dry active yeast (or 2.5 g instant yeast or 10 g fresh yeast)
10 g salt
50 g sugar
50 g butter or chicekn fat or vegetable oil
2 egg yolks (save the whites for glazing)
1 whole egg
Measure the flour into a big bowl and make a well in it. Measure in the yeast and the sugar and pour over the water. Flick some flour over the surface of the water to close the well and let it sit for one hour.
Add all of the other ingredients and stir well to mix and then knead for 10 minutes. Cover the bowl and let it rise for 1-2 hours or in the fridge over night. In fact, the dough is soft and it is easier to deal with if it is cold so you may want to do that.
When it has at least doubled in size, scrape it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into as many pieces as you need to shape it. If you go to You Tube and type in "Shaping Challah" you will find loads of ideas. Shape the challah, adding as little flour as you can manage (although the dough is sticky and you will be tempted). Put it on a baking sheet that you have lined with non stick parchment paper. Cover it with a tea towel and let it sit. If you have shaped warm dough, let it sit for 45 minutes or so. If you have shaped cold dough it may take 2 hours to rise again. It will double in size.
Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees. Beat the egg whites you have reserved with a pinch of sugar and salt and then brush this all over the dough. Sprinkle poppy seeds an/or sesame seeds on the dough. Pop it in the oven and turn it down to 180. Bake for 45 minutes although check it after 30 minutes and if it is getting too brown, cover it with a peices of non stick parchment paper.
Let cool on a wire rack and tear it apart when you want to share it!