I've made challah a couple of times years ago and have had good success w/ the recipe in "Baking w/ Julia"--see link. The contributing baker is Lauren Groveman. I suggest you try to find it at your local library so that you have the word-for-word recipe along w/ pictures to help you along. It's a somewhat lengthy recipe so I'm afraid that something would be lost in paraphrasing. Alternatively, I can email the exact recipe to you if you give me your email. Good luck.
Possibly too late for today, but--
In November I attended a King Arthur baking school class with Maggie Glezer, author of "A Blessing of Bread: The Many Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking From Around the World." It was an incredible experience. The book is outstanding (many detailed recipes just for different types of challah, for example) and there is a whole illustrated section on shaping challot.
Back home, I came up with this adaptation of one of her recipes. I double the batch, make three loaves and freeze two. That way I only have to bake one week in three.
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
About 3 3/4 c flour (I used 2 c KA white, 1 3/4 c KA whole wheat)
3/4 c warm water
2 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
1/2 c veg oil
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 c sugar
Seeds for sprinkling (optional)
1. Make a yeast slurry
In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast, 3/4 c. flour and and the warm water until smooth. Let stand uncovered 10-20 minutes until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.
2. Mix the dough
Whisk the 2 eggs, the oil, salt and sugar into the yeast slurry until well incorporated and the salt/sugar are dissolved. Add the remaining flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until it is a shaggy mass. Scrape out onto your kneading surface and knead until smooth and soft, no more than 10 minutes. The dough should feel smooth and firm and knead easily without sticking to the work surface.
3. Ferment the dough
Place the dough in a bowl and cover. Let ferment until it has doubled, about 2 hours. It's better if you can refrigerate overnight then shape and bake the next day--the flavor will be more developed.
4. Shaping and proofing the dough
Line a baking sheet or sheets, depending on how many you are making, with parchment paper or a baking mat. [I have done fine with two small loaves on one large sheet.] Shape the loaf or loaves (see below**). Place them on the prepared sheets and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours or let sit at room temp until tripled, about 1 1/2 hours.
30 minutes before baking, place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt. When loaves have proofed, glaze and sprinkle with any desired seeds. Bake the small loaves 25-35 minutes, the large 35-45 minutes. If the large loaf is getting too dark, tent with foil. Remove from oven when done and cool on a rack.
**Shaping: When forming snakes for braiding, divide dough into desired number of pieces. Here is the key: roll each piece out thinly, about 1/8 inch. Mist the surface lightly with water (to make it stick), then roll it up tightly. Then roll it gently but firmly under your palms to make the snake. When you are ready to braid, dust each snake very lightly with flour. Braid loosely to allow room for expansion. If making a 3-strand braid, taper the ends of the snakes to make a tapered loaf. Start braiding in the middle and braid to one end. Then flip the 1/2 braided loaf over and repeat with the unbraided side. This will help to get a more evenly braided loaf.
We found a shortcut and huge time saver - but this is perfect for the kids.
We take a pie pan or loaf pan, spray with butter flavored spray works nicely, and put in dough balls meant for biscuts (we use Rhodes Dough, OU and available at Wal-Mart and other groceries), packed pretty closely (about 15-18 for a pie pan) and then bake at heat on package for 30-40 minutes.
When you serve it, this is a "break apart" challah. It is excellent warm and can freeze. If you freeze, put it in the oven for a few minutes and it is great!
This company makes a really excellent challah bread mix. As good as any bakery challah I've ever had. I make the dough (enough for two loaves) in my bread machine set to dough only, then braid and bake per the 'bread machine instructions' on the box. Thank you.
This is from my book, "Honey From Flower to Table." It's easy and has never failed me....
2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
2 1/2 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
4 -5 cups unbleached flour (or use all white flour for a more traditional loaf)
Sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until dissolved. Beat in eggs, yolks, oil, honey, and salt. Stir in ww flour and beat to a thick batter. Add white flour, one cup at a time, until you have a soft but not too sticky dough. Let sit for 10 minutes (this helps the dough absorb the flour). Knead for 8-10 minutes, until stretchy and elastic. Place in bowl, cover with towel, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Turn out and knead lightly for a minute or two. Separate into six long ropes, and braid each three ropes together into a long braid. Place loaves in loaf pans or on big cookie sheet, and let rise another hour. Bake at 350 degrees until well browned and hollow-sounding when tapped (approx. 45 minutes).
If available, Empire actually makes a very good frozen dough that you can bake up quickly.
We used to keep a loaf in the freezer in case of a weather or other problem.
I will have to look up our old recipe after Shabbat. We used to bake at home when the kids were in pre-school or on vacation.
Shabbat Shalom, p.j.
I got this recipe from a dear friend who bakes all the challahs for her temple. It makes two very large loaves. I think I usually use about 8-9 cups of flour.
2 cups warm water
1 pkg. dried yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tsp. salt
flour (no, I don't know how many cups)
Put water in a 2-cup measuring cup. Pour most of it into a large mixing bowl.
Add yeast and a teaspoon or so of the sugar to the water in the measuring cup. Put rest of sugar in water in bowl, along with oil and salt. When yeast mixture begins to rise, put it into the mixing bowl and mix in. Break eggs into the measuring cup and beat slightly. Pour into mixing bowl. Add 3 cups of flour and mix with a French whisk. Add flour until you get a soft dough. (At some point, you need to switch to your favorite wooden spoon with the split in it and the slightly burned part.) Turn onto a countertop that's been liberally sprinkled with flour and knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
Put dough into clean mixing bowl that's been sprayed with one of those oil things (or schmeared with oil). Spray oil on top (or turn the dough over until all sides are coated with oil). Cover and let rise until double.
Punch dough down and divide into two parts. Divide each part into thirds and roll between your hands or on countertop to form long "ropes." Braid, tucking ends in. Put on baking sheets, cover, and let rise until double. Brush with an egg wash (one egg beaten with about 1/4 eggshell full of water) and sprinkle on poppy seeds if you want to. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, or until brown and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
If you want to get a little fancier with the braids, form each half of the dough into four strands. Starting with one outside strand, take it under the two middle strands and over one strand. Alternate outside strands.
Thanks all for the help, so I made Doctor Mama's (aka Buttercup) recipe yesterday -- Carb Lover's will be my next attempt (I didn't have whole milk in the apartment and was too lazy to go outside). It came out great (although I am curious to compare the taste with Carb Lover's recipe and when I do I'll post) except my braiding was terrible, part of the problem was that afer the bread rose the top was a little crusty (maybe I should have covered in plastic wrap rather than a dish towel) and I had problems making ropes for braiding. But that just takes practice (but any tips would be great).
I'm off to make french toast now with my challah!!
re: Keri T.
re: Keri T.
Mmmmm...challah french toast...challah bread pudding...mmmmm...
Thanks for reporting back. During rising, the recipe I gave you says to cover the dough w/ little melted butter, then cover bowl w/ buttered plastic wrap and then a towel. This should prevent that crust from forming and keep the dough pliable for braiding.
Noticed that the recipe I gave you doesn't call for vegetable oil like many others, using butter instead. The milk and honey add great flavor too. While my recipe may be the most labor and time intensive (w/ 3 risings), I can assure you that it's worth every bit of effort. The puffy golden loaves are a sight to behold and are the epitome of homemade bread IMO.
re: Carb Lover
The problem with using butter and milk in a recipe for challah is that it then can't be eaten with a meat meal. I think that's why most traditional recipes don't include those milk-based ingredients.
I'm sure your recipe is delicious, but I doubt that it's a traditional challah.
re: Keri T.
If you have problems forming the ropes you probably just need to let the dough relax a bit. When it starts to resist your efforts to shape it, slam it down on the counter hard a couple of times, then cover it up with plastic wrap and go do something else for 10 or 15 minutes.
Once you return it should be much more pliable.