I am so thrilled to have my first guest blogger— Mara Sprafkin!! This gorgeous recipe- and charts– I am beyond impressed. Though of course, nothing less would come from this talented artist— check out her site Mara Sprafkin— and her assistant Paul’s blog.
Without further ado… Mara’s post:
I was very excited to guest blog this recipe for Tessa. I tend to use her recipes quite frequently as I have been cooking more and more. I set out to learn to bake bread in September and started with Challah. This may seem complicated but Challah is a relatively easy bread to make by hand. You don’t need bread pans and you probably have all the ingredients already in your house. It is a perfect thing to try if you are stuck in the house for a while. And in the end you get freshly baked bread. And that is it’s own reward.This Challah recipe comes from my mother. It is dated January 15th, 1966 and came from the Temple her family attended when she was a kid growing up in Southern California.
I have adapted slightly for the High Holidays by substituting honey for the sugar, adding raisins and doing a fancy crown braid.
1 packet of yeast (if you have jar and not the packets you can use about a tsp and a half.
1 cup very warm water
1 whole egg
1 tbsp. honey (you can also use sugar)
1/2 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. oil (veggie or canola)
3 1/2 cups of flour (plus more for kneading)
1 egg yolk
sesame seeds (optional)
Put the yeast in a large bowl. Add the cup of VERY WARM water, the whole egg, honey, salt and oil and the 3 1/2 cups of flour.
Mix well with spoon and by hand.
Once the dough seems well mixed sprinkle your work surface with flour and knead dough. You probably only have to do this for about 10-15 minutes. You will know when it is done when you have a smooth roundish ball that is not too sticky. If your dough is too sticky (probably will happen) add more flour as you knead.
Wash out the bowl you were using to mix the ingredients with some warm water and dry it.
Place the dough ball in the warm bowl with a little oil rubbed all over it and in the insides of the bowl and cover the bowl with a wet cloth. (I like to wet the cloth with some warm water but you can use whatever is coming out of your faucet.) Let this sit for 2 hours or till the dough pretty much doubles in size.
If you are going to add raisins to your bread you will now need to soak the raisins. Please note that you can use as much or as few as you want. I tend to use about 3 oz. or a pretty large handful. Put the raisins in a small bowl and submerge them fully in water. You might as well just let these sit till the dough is ready. This keeps the raisins from drying out while the bread is baking in the oven.
2 hours later…
Take out the dough and punch it to get out the air bubble.
You can easily divide the dough into 6 parts and make 2 small regular braided loafs or divide the dough in 3 parts and make one big old braided challah.
Or you can get all fancy and make a round crown braided loaf by following my step by step instructions. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.
If you are adding raisins you need to then drain the raisins.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour
Then one piece at a time roll out the dough flat with a rolling pin or the ever handy wine bottle. Sprinkle a quarter of the raisins all over the flattened dough. Starting with one end roll the dough back up into a coil or snake. You can then squeeze the dough to get the coil longer. It should be between 12 and 24″ long]
Do this to each of the 4 pieces so that in the end all 4 coils are about equal in length. (if they are not exact don’t sweat.)
If you are not using raisins you can just skip to here.
Arrange your 4 coils in a criss-crossed pattern like in the first photo.
Moving counter clockwise take the under piece in each ‘set’ and place it over it’s partner directly to the right.
Now moving in the opposite direction take the under piece again in each ‘set’ and place it over it’s partner directly to the left.
Do this until there is nothing left to braid. You might have to pull the dough a bit but that is ok.
When you run out of dough to braid pull all the ends up and pinch them all together.
Flip the whole braided dough over carefully and surprise a beautiful seamless round braid!
Spray a cooking sheet with non stick spray and place the loaf on the cookie sheet.
whisk up the egg yolk and brush it over all of the bread.
If you want to add sesame seeds after the loaf gets brushed with egg yolk you can sprinkle them on top.
Preheat your oven to 350 and place the cookie sheet on top of the stove. (This will just provide a little warmth for the last rising.)
While your oven preheats let your uncooked loaf of bread rise for about 30 more minutes.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 min to an hour.