Making challah is one of my favourite things to do in the kitchen. When the whole flat smells of that sweet bread and I take it out of the oven all golden and beautiful it gives me a lovely sense of satisfaction and identity. The only thing better than that is actually eating the stuff. This challah somehow manages to be both springy and chewy and not too heavy. I got the recipe off Sarah Mandel and twiddled it to get the level of sweetness and chewiness that I like best. For some reason I’ve tried using cup measures and gram measures and it always comes out better when I use cups. I’m going to give you both, but if you have cups I would recommend using them.
1lb 4oz (570g) bread flour
1 cup (225 ml) warm water
1/3 cup (75g) sugar – use more if you like your challah really sweet
1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 packet yeast
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)
Yields 2 medium-sized loaves, but if you’re feeding more than 6 people per loaf you might want a spare because this stuff is addictive.
Takes about 3 hours to make.
Stage one: I use a bread maker for this bit, so if you have one, put all the ingredients in it, switch it to the dough setting and leave. This takes an hour and a half. If you don’t have a bread maker, put all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead well until they form a firm dough. Then cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm room for an hour and a half.
Stage two: When the dough is done, preheat the oven to 195C/fan175C. Then put the dough on a lightly floured service and give it a brief knead to get rid of the big air bubbles. I like to braid it next. You don’t need to do this, but it only takes a few minutes and it’s really easy so do give it a go once! All you do it break the dough into 6 roughly equal parts and roll them into fat strings a little longer than a hand. If the dough feels too sticky, dust each string with a little flour and it’ll get much easier to work with. Then plait them 3 at a time into 2 challah rolls, just like you would hair. Put them on a non-stick baking tray and put them on top of the oven to prove.
Stage three: 45 minutes later the challot will have swelled. Break an egg into a glass and give it a mix with a fork, and then brush it liberally over the tops of the rolls. Sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds over the top if you like – it’s just for looks!
Stage four: Put the challot in the oven for 15 minutes. If you don’t like challah chewy, leave them in for 3-5 more minutes. Normally when you’re checking if bread is done, the best way is to tap on the bottom and if it sounds hollow that means it’s done. That simply doesn’t work with this challah, so down worry about it like I did the first few times! Anyway, when they’re out, carefully remove them from the baking tray (they can be a bit floppy but they’ll firm later) and put them on cooling racks. They might stick to the tray a bit, in which case slide a spatula under them and they’ll come off really easily.