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Jewish Challah

Jewish Challah
A recipe passed down to Anne Moore

1 pkg of active dry yeast-- 2.5 teaspoons if you have bulk yeast- use room temp for best results.
5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/4 cups of very warm water- approx. 125° F
1/3 cup of softened butter (NON-KOSHER) or salad oil (KOSHER)
2 eggs
1 egg yolk blended with 1 tablespoon milk (egg wash)

*optional additions*
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon added to dry ingredients
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla added to wet ingredients
-pinch of saffron for color
-1 tablespoon sesame seeds
For raisin lovers: 
-1/2-3/4 cup of raisins- after first rising, coat raisins lightly with flour and knead into dough. Form as desired after doing so.


1. Combine yeast, 1-1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in mixing bowl. Stir. Pour in water and beat until smooth. Mix in butter/oil, eggs, and saffron (if desired). An electric mixer can be used on a low setting with the dough hook attachment. Gradually add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough- the dough should leave the sides of the bowl to cling to the dough hook if using an electric mixer. 
Turn out on a floured board and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl- Spectrum’s spray canola oil is what my mother uses. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. 
Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours. You’ll know the dough is good when it's soft and smooth, and gluten makes the bread bounce back when you press it down with a finger.

2. You can braid the dough two ways- a traditional Challah braid, or a three-piece braid. My mother typically does a three-piece braid on loaves we eat at home, but uses a traditional four-piece Challah braid on loaves she gives to other people. 

For a three-piece braid: Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each strand to about 20 inches long. Strands should look like the picture to the left- equally thick throughout the body and slightly tapered at the ends. Line the strands up lengthwise on a greased baking sheet and braid the dough- taking the left strand and crossing it over the middle strand, then taking the right strand and crossing it over the new middle strand. Repeat until braid is complete. On one end of the loaf, pinch the three ends of the strands and fold under. Repeat on opposite end. 

3. For a traditional Challah braid: divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each to form a strand about 20 inches long. Place the 4 strands lengthwise on a greased baking sheet. Pinch top ends together and braid as follows: Pick up the strand on the right, bring it over the next one, under the third, and over the fourth. Repeat, always starting with strand on right, until braid is complete. 

4. Cover and let rise until doubled. Using a clean pastry brush, brush egg wash evenly over braids liberally but gently, and optionally, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Make sure the pastry brush hasn’t been used to apply strongly flavored sauces- it doesn’t need to be new, but if you’ve used barbecue sauces or any other sauces with the brush, the flavor may transfer. 

4. Bake in 350° F oven 35 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Post-bake Challah!

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