Honeyed Challah – as pictured 2 posts below.
Makes 3 loaves or 6-8 rolls. The recipe can be doubled or tripled.
I start my bread the night before I intend to bake, for best taste and crumb texture. If you want to do it all the same day, use 1 whole cube of yeast, allow the sponge to rise 1 hour, and proceed.
You will need 5-6 cups flour for the dough and 1 beaten egg plus 4 Tblsp. of softened honey for glazing the finished loaves.
Before going to bed, make the Sponge:
1/2 cube fresh yeast
2 cups water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil (corn, canola)
1 beaten egg
1 Tblsp. salt
3 cups sifted flour
1. Rehydrate the yeast in all the water. Allow it sit for 5 minutes.
2. Add the rest of the sponge ingredients, in order, and mix very well. This should take maybe 5 minutes.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight or for 8 hours. It can sit in the fridge even longer, but it might rise up and overflow like the mighty Amazon (don’t ask).
Next morning or 8 hours later, mix the Dough:
1. Stir the sponge down. Allow it to reach room temperature again: about 1 hour.
If you have started with a whole cube of yeast, let the sponge rise 1 hour.
2. Start adding flour by half-cups, mixing till you have a firm mass that holds its shape. This will take 2-3 more cups of flour, depending on how firm you like your dough and how long the sponge sat in the fridge.
I like a very tender crumb with some holes in it, so I add only up to 2 more cups. The dough is sloppy, but it can be shaped with sprinkles of more flour later on.
If you have made a firm dough, knead for 10 minutes or until it “talks back.”
If you have a softer dough for a very light challah, flour your working surface and plop the dough onto it. Stretch it into a plump rectangle, pushing the dough lightly with your fingertips. Fold the edges of the dough over to make a package, then stretch it out again and repeat the folds. You will see all kinds of descriptions of the stretch-and-fold method, but it doesn’t really matter how the dough gets folded, as longs as it does get folded. Stretch and fold the dough 5 times, sprinkling in more flour as needed to keep manipulating it. You will see that it works just as well as kneading. The dough should still feel loose in the hand, not dry.
Cover the dough and let rest for 15 minutes.
Now shape the challas. For Rosh HaShannah, it’s traditional to make them round, representing wholeness and the cycle of the year.
If your dough is firm, cut it into thirds (or whatever fraction you want). Roll out the dough into a long snake. Roll the snake up into a circle, pinching the bottom sides to keep the baked loaf shapely. Push the top down a bit with the palm of your hand, so it doesn’t rise like a cone in baking.
If you have a soft dough, just push it into a circle shape, pinching any seams shut with your fingers.
Either way, let your round challas rise, covered, till very light, with a few blisters visible under the surface skin. In a warm kitchen, this may take only 1 hour.
20 minutes before you figure on baking, preheat the oven to 350 F – 180 C.
For soft dough: About 15 minutes into preheating time, slash circles around the top of the challas. Use your sharpest knife or a clean retractable razor. Let the bread relax for 5 minutes.
Brush the loaves with beaten egg. Bake. Large loaves will take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Smaller loaves need from 30-40 minutes. Rolls have to be watched after 20 minutes to determine doneness.
When the challas are golden and baked through, remove from the oven and place them on a rack to cool off. BUT while they’re still hot, brush honey over all their surfaces. It will melt and drip, glazing the challas attractively.