Moist, cake-like challah is a big hit at my Rosh Hashanah open house. Divide the dough into two-thirds and one-third to make two loaves, but never use all to the dough to make one giant crown or the center will surely be raw after the normal baking time is reached.
7-8 cups bread flour 2 packages rapid rise yeast 1 1/2 cups water 2 sticks parve margarine or butter 1/4 teaspoon yellow food coloring 3/4 cup sugar 2 Tablespoons poppy seeds, optional 1 Tablespoon salt 4 large eggs 1 cup raisins, optional EGG WASH-1 egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon water
In a large mixer bowl combine 6 cups of the flour and the yeast. Stir to combine.
Heat the water, margarine, food coloring, sugar, poppy seed and the salt in a saucepan until very warm (140F). Water should be uncomfortably hot to your finger but not hot enough to burn you. (It will feel like hot tap water).
Add the warm liquid mixture to the flour while the mixer is on low. As the liquid is being incorporated, add the eggs. Mix thoroughly.
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. The mixture will be satiny smooth.
Pre-heat your oven to 400F for 1 MINUTE. Lightly grease a bowl with oil and turn the dough in the bowl to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a TURNED OFF oven until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes. Punch down the dough and divide in half or in thirds. Roll each piece into a rope about 15 inches long. Hold one end two inches above work surface and then wrap rest of dough around to make a large coil. Pinch ends together to prevent unraveling when baking. Place formed breads on parchment paper lined or greased cookie sheets and let rise until light and doubled, about 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 25-35 minutes depending on the size of the loaves. When the bread is done, it will be golden brown and have a hollow sound when tapped.
As no amount of eggs will make the challah look golden, coloring is added. You can substitute 1/8 teaspoon saffron or turmeric for color.
The amount of flour you use will be directly related to the weather; on dry, wintry days you will need less flour than on a rainy spring day, because the cold dry air will make the dough drier and the moist air in spring will require more flour to absorb the ext6ra moisture. The amount of lour is dictated by the feel of the dough.
To let the dough rise overnight, spoon 1 tablespoon of oil inside a 2-gallon ziplock bag and rub to distribute. Place the dough in the bag, squeeze out any excess air, seal, and place in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the bag from the regr5igerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding with step 6.
Never cut bread hot from the oven. The steam will cause the knife to drag through the loaf and mat the dough together.
Watch Tina demonstrate how to make a round challah for Rosh Hashanah.