Baking Challah bread
Challah is made from a rich dough made with egg and sometimes some added sugar. On Sabbath eve a family will have two plaited loaves of challah on the table. For Shavuot and other festivals it is more traditional to have round loaves.
1 packet (1/3oz / 7g) easy bake yeast
12 fl oz (330 ml) warm water
4 oz (110 g) sugar
11/2 lbs (700 g) plain white flour.
4 oz (110 g) oil.
3 large eggs, beaten.
1 teaspoon. salt
1 egg to glaze
poppy or sesame seeds
Sift 1lb of the flour and the salt into a large mixing bowl and mix in the dry yeast. Dissolve the sugar in the water. Add to the flour and yeast, mixing thoroughly. Add the oil and then the eggs mixing both into the dough. Add the remaining flour and knead until the dough is soft and elastic (add extra flour if necessary). Place the dough into a greased bowl and turn so that all sides are greased. Cover with a towel and put aside for about two hours for the dough to double in size (dough will rise at room temperature and this gives a better result). Punch down and knead a few times.
To make a plaited loaf
Divide the dough in half for two large loaves (when there are just two of us, I prefer to divide this amount of dough into six and have six much smaller loaves, four of which I freeze for later weeks). Each piece will be made into a separate loaf. Take one piece and divide into four. Set one of these smaller pieces aside and roll out each of the other three between your hands to make thick ropes. Lay out these onto a floured surface. Join them at one end and make them into a loose plait (braid). Divide the fourth piece into three parts and make a smaller plait in a similar way. Place this plait on top of the larger one, gently pushing it down at either end. Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature again for about half an hour. Brush with the egg glaze and then sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 170 °C (350 °F, gas mark 4) for 30 to 35 minutes.
I have just discovered how to do a four strand plait/braid for Cholla bread. This is the way the kosher bakers make sabbath loaves but I have always found it impossible to reproduce. Now I have found the solution - instead of starting at one end, you need to start in the middle!
Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll with your hands to make strips. Take two of these and place one on top of the other to make and X shape on the pastry board with the one going 'top left to bottom right' over the top of the one going 'bottom left to top right'. Now do the same to the other two strips and place these over the top of the first two but up a bit so that the cross over is just above/forward of the first X. Locate the very bottom strand of the first X that goes bottom left to top right. Take the upper end of this and weave it over the top of the 'top left to bottom right' strand of the second X.
If that makes any sense what you end up with is a simple lattice making a square in the middle. Some strands point upwards and some downwards. You will find that these can be naturally twisted round and under the loaf towards either end to make a plait like structure.
Next time I make it I'll take some photos and put up to show you!
To make a round loaf for festivals
Take half the dough and divide it into two pieces - one piece should be approximately twice the size of the other. Smooth both into ball shapes, then put the larger piece down onto a board and flatten a little. Take the smaller piece, place this on top and flatten so that it pushes slightly into the other loaf. Push a dent into the very top using your finger so that it should resemble a cottage loaf. Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature again for about half an hour. Brush with the egg glaze and then sprinkle with seeds (hundreds and thousands are sometimes used for Shavuot). Bake at 200 °C (400 °F, gas mark 6) for 40 to 45 minutes.
Further recipes and ideas for festivals can be found in the popular paperback: A Feast of Seasons