Challah, or egg bread as many bakeries call it, is a rich, golden bread made with more eggs than usually found in “white” breads. Experience has taught me that no amount of eggs will make the bread a real golden color. Instead, a coloring agent such as saffron, turmeric, achiote or vegetable food coloring needs to be added in small quantities to give the desired hue without altering the flavor of the bread. For this reason, I use a small amount of yellow vegetable coloring to make the dough look rich, but not artificial and to preserve the natural flavor of the bread.
Occasionally the tops of the bread will be sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds representative of the manna that fell from heaven. In my recipe, I add the poppyseeds to the dough. Flavor and texture are enhanced and the seeds don’t get caught in everyone’s teeth!
- 8 cups bread flour, I use Gold Medal’s “Better for Bread”
- 2 packages rapid rise yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 sticks parve margarine or butter
- 1/4 teaspoon yellow food coloring
- 3/4-cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoons poppy seeds, optional
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1-cup raisins, optional
- EGG WASH-1 egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon water
- In a large mixer bowl combine 7 cups of the flour and the yeast. Stir to combine.
- Heat the water, margarine, food coloring, sugar, poppy seed and the salt in a saucepan until very warm (140F). Water should be uncomfortably hot to your finger but not hot enough to burn you. (It will feel like hot tap water).
- Add the warm liquid mixture to the flour while the mixer is on low. As the liquid is being incorporated, add the eggs. Mix thoroughly.
- Gradually add the remaining flour only until a fairly firm dough is formed. This process should take about 7 minutes whether you are using the dough hook on your mixer or are kneading it by hand. The mixture will be satiny smooth. If you are using raisins, add at this point and incorporate evenly.
- Pre-heat your oven to 400F for 1 MINUTE. Lightly grease a bowl with oil and turn the dough in the bowl to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a TURNED OFF oven until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.
- Punch down the dough and divide in half or thirds. Divide each portion into 6 pieces and roll each piece into a rope about 10 inches long. Braid each loaf using the 6 braid technique (you can always divide the dough into thirds and make a standard braid). Place formed breads on a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper and allow to rise until light and doubled, about 25 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 25-35 minutes depending on the size of the loaves. When the bread is done, it will be golden brown and have a hollow sound when tapped.