Challah for Hanukkah: Step-By-Step Guide

Categories: Home Cooking

challah for hannukah.JPG
All photos by Emily Codik
Unfussy, delicious challah for Hanukkah
The best holiday dinners go down a little like this: the host or hostess drops off a juicy, slow-cooked brisket, a platter of latkes, and a golden homemade challah atop a linen-topped dining room table. Eyes light up. Is it the candles or all the champagne? We just don't know. Everyone sighs and murmurs a few indistinct "oh la la's".

For hosts, these moments are instant gratification after a long day of cooking. For guests, it's the perfect holiday meal.

Indeed, few things are appreciated more than a homemade loaf of bread. Maybe because it takes a day to do the kneading and fermenting. Or perhaps it's because it's so much easier to stop by the grocery store and pick up a shiny, flawlessly-braided challah.

But here's what I have to say about those store-bought challahs: screw 'em.

It's the holidays, the time to bake for friends and family. And no one in my family ever served a flawless six-braided elaborate challah on Hanukah. Challah is supposed to be homemade. It should look homemade. This loaf signifies continuity. And, to achieve that, all you need is a spiral.

What follows is our step-by-step guide to making a soft, slightly sweet challah. Tapered braids look best, especially when sprinkled with sesame seeds. But do what you would like. Poppy seeds and raisins are likewise welcome. My family sometimes adds walnuts and guava paste to the mix.

Making something truly unique -- albeit imperfect -- is the best part of baking bread at home. So, go ahead. Get crazy with your challah.

Three-Strand Challah
Recipe adapted from a wide-range of notes and advice from family, friends, and cookbooks (particularly by the great Peter Reinhart).

Note: When baking bread, recipes shouldn't be set in stone. Some days, you'll need more water. On other occasions, you'll need more flour. So, shape the dough by hand and get a sense of how it feels. Let that be your guide.

4 cups all purpose flour, preferably King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 - 4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 organic eggs, slightly beaten
2 organic egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 -1 cup water, at room temperature
2 organic egg yolks

3 large bowls
Wooden spoon
Small bowl
Plastic wrap
Baking sheet
Parchment paper

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