I should have titled this post as "Challah: Epic Fail," but then no one would want to read it. This was my second attempt at this lovely braided bread, but I still didn't get it right. Sure, it looks pretty, and I thoroughly enjoyed kneading and braiding the dough, but the taste and texture were nowhere near what I expected. I'm no expert on challah- my only experience with it is the stuff you get at a high-end grocery store bakery, which isn't bad, but I imagine the real stuff must taste better. I've heard several people who know what they're talking about (you know, those lucky people with Jewish grandmas who make it right) describe it as a rich egg bread, like brioche. I'm quite familiar with good brioche, and let me tell you- this challah didn't exactly remind me of anything remotely close to brioche. It was marginally better than the store bought stuff, but not nearly eggy or tender enough to convince me that I got it right. I know it's just a matter of finding the right recipe, but I hope I don't have too many more failures before I get it right.
1 1/2 Tbsp. active dry yeast 1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus extra to oil the bowl 5 eggs 1 Tbsp. salt 7 to 7 1/2 cups AP flour
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 Tbsp. sugar in 1 3/4 cups of warm water. Whisk oil into yeast, then mix in 4 eggs one at a time with 1/2 cup sugar and salt. Gradually add flour until dough can be kneaded.
2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size. Punch down, cover, and let rise again in a warm place for half an hour.
3. Divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 6 equal parts and roll each part into a 12" rope (this will make enough for 2 loaves of 6 braid challah). Pinch the ends of 6 ropes together and braid the challah. Place each loaf on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Beat remaining egg and brush onto challah (save enough for a second brushing) and let rise another hour.
5. Preheat oven to 375 and brush loaves with the remainder of the egg. Bake in the center of the oven for 35-45 minutes or until golden. I usually have to put a layer of foil over the top of my challah after 20 minutes to prevent the top from darkening too quickly.