Tina Wasserman says this challah freezes well for months if wrapped properly: Place a cooled loaf in a resealable plastic food storage freezer bag. Seal it most of the way, insert a drinking straw, suck out the remaining air from the bag and quickly close it, to prevent ice crystals from forming on the bread.
Servings: 2 large round loaves or 3 small round loaves
- 7 to 7 1/2 cups bread flour, such as King Arthur or Gold Medal Better for Bread
- 2 packages (about 2 tablespoons) rapid rise yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) pareve margarine or unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon yellow food coloring
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup raisins (optional)
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon water
In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine 6 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast, mixing well.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the water, margarine or butter, food coloring, sugar, poppy seeds and salt until the mixture registers--0 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Liquid should feel uncomfortably hot to your finger but not hot enough to burn you.)
With the mixer on low speed, add the warm liquid mixture to the flour-yeast mixture. As the liquid is being incorporated, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
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 on a lightly floured work surface. Add the raisins, if desired, after most of the kneading is done, to keep the raisins from breaking down and flavoring the dough. The dough will be satiny smooth and should not stick to a lightly floured fingertip.
Set the oven to 400 degrees but turn it off after 1 minute; the oven should be at about 120 degrees at that point.
Lightly grease a bowl with vegetable oil and turn the dough in the bowl to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Punch down the dough and divide in half or thirds. Shape each portion into 1 large rope and coil the dough around itself to make a round of dough that looks like a turban. Make sure to pinch the end of the dough under to prevent uncoiling during baking. Place the formed loaves on baking sheets that are lightly greased or lined with parchment paper. Allow to rise about 25 minutes, or until they are light and have doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the egg and the water. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg-water wash and bake for 25 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the loaves. When the breads are done, they will be golden brown and have a hollow sound when tapped.
Recipe adapted from Tina Wasserman, food columnist for Reform Judaism magazine, an experienced cooking instructor and occasional contributor to the Food section.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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