For Rosh Hashanah, I'm reposting this challah recipe, along with a photo of my braided round challah from last year. Directions can be found on numerous youtube videos, but I like the one that I'm embedding in the recipe, because the chef isn't annoying and I love her finishing technique of twisting the small ends and tucking them under. Skip the beginning of the video, which is for a 6-strand braid, and watch the 4-strand braid, which is easier and prettier, I think.
Or you can make a simple spiral round challah (directions included).Challah makes wonderful bread pudding and great French toast. It can be made in a bread machine or with a mixer but is best baked in the oven, so it can develop its distinguishing crust. Braiding contributes to both taste and texture and is an essential characteristic of Challah. The dough can also be made into nice dinner rolls. Directions for a traditional 6-strand loaf will also follow.
Challah is a very personal thing - some like it very eggy, some very sweet, some like it cakey and some more like bread. My recipe is of the "bready" variety. If you like it cakey, you can add more oil and eggs. Just adjust the amount of water correspondingly. If you like it more tender, you can use milk instead of water.
Makes 1 or 2 loaves or 20-30 rolls
1-1/3 cups warm water
1/4 cup oil
1/4-1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs, room temperature (place them in their shells into warm water for 2 minutes to bring them to room temperature
5-1/2 cups (608 grams and 135 grams, divided) bread flour
1 tablespoon rapid-rise, quick-rising or instant yeast ( I buy mine in bulk from King Arthur Flour)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup raisins, optional
1 large egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water, for glazing
Poppy seeds for sprinkling
To make the bread in a mixer:
Place the water, oil, honey, and eggs in the mixer bowl and beat to blend everything together.
Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed, adding the remaining flour, ¼ cup at the beginning and then 1 tablespoon at a time, as the dough progresses. Add only enough flour to make the dough tacky, but not overly sticky. It's okay if it sticks to the bottom of the bowl, but should not be very sticky when you pinch the dough. Continue machine kneading for 8 - 12 minutes. The dough should be moist and supple. The final kneading will be done by hand.
When you take it out of the bowl, it will still be very rough looking. Knead it, adding a very little bit of flour if necessary to keep it from sticking to the board.
Here's how to knead:
Press down on the dough with the heels of your hands (use both hands).
Then roll the dough towards you.
so that it folds up on itself. Press again with the heels of your hands. Roll and press the dough a few times and then turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat the whole process. Continue until the dough forms a smooth and elastic ball.
Pinch out a small piece of the dough, and continue pinching and flattening. If the dough is done, it should be able to be pressed and pulled until you can just see your fingers through the dough.
Oil a bowl, add the dough, and turn it over in the bowl so that all sides of the dough are oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to rise until doubled in volume (about 1 hour).
To test if the dough has doubled, flour a finger and gently poke the dough. If the indentation remains, the dough has risen sufficiently.
In the picture on the left, the dough wasn't risen enough, and the hole started to fill back up.
The picture on the right shows the dough risen enough.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface. The recipe will make either 1 or 2, depending on how large you like them. Place the half that you aren't working with back in the bowl and cover it until ready to use.
For a 4-strand round braid, you can make 2 medium-size loaves or 1 large. Divide the dough into either 8 strands or 4, as desired. If using raisins, flour them lightly and press them into each piece of dough, and then roll the dough up to enclose the raisins.
To roll the dough into ropes:
Start in the middle with both hands lightly pressing on the dough. Roll forward and back moving your hands from the center of the dough towards the edges, until you have the size rope you want.
Then follow these directions to shape the loaf: http://toriavey.com/images/2012/09/How-to-Braid-a-Four-Strand-Round-Challah.pdf OR watch this video (skip the 6-braid instructions at the beginning):
Mix the egg with 1 teaspoon water to make a glaze. Brush the glaze over the bread and sprinkle with poppy seeds. An easy way to make sure that the seeds are sprinkled evenly, is to hold the seeds in the palm of your hand and turn your palm up with your fingers closed. Shake your hand side to side and the seeds will just come out of the the little opening at the pinky side of your hand.
Attach six ropes together. Move strand #2 up past #6
Re-number the stands from left to right.
Move strand #1 between #3 and #4
Re-number the strands.
Move #5 up to the #1 position.
Re-number the strands.
Move #6 between #3 and #4.
Repeat these steps until you reach the end of the braid. Pinch the ends together.
Each picture below shows how the bread shaping progresses after each 2-1-5-6 pattern.
To make the challah in a bread machine, divide the recipe ingredients in half. Add the wet ingredients ( water, oil, honey and eggs) to the machine bowl. Add the flour, yeast and salt. Use the dough cycle. After the dough has doubled (about 1 hour), proceed with the shaping instructions, as above, making either 1 loaf or 15-20 rolls.