Modern Manna recipe / Joan Nathan’s Challah
Joan Nathan’s challah recipe provides a detailed explanation for each and every step of the baking.
1½ tablespoons (1½ packages) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon plus ½ cup sugar
1¾ cups lukewarm water
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8–8 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling
1. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in 1¾ cups of lukewarm water in a large bowl.
2. Whisk the oil into the yeast mixture, then beat in 2 of the eggs, one at a time, along with the remaining sugar and the salt. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.) Gradually add eight cups of flour and stir. When the dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out the bowl and grease it, then return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour. (You may put the dough in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees, then turned off.) When the dough has almost doubled in volume, punch it down, cover, and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. To make a 6-braided challah, take half the dough and form into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand tapered at the ends about 12 inches long and 1½ inches wide. Pinch the strands together at one end, then gently spread them apart. Next, move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then, take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Regroup to 3 on each side. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2 to the middle, then move the second strand from the right over to the far left. Regroup and start over with the outside right strand. Continue until all the strands are braided, tucking the ends underneath the loaf. The key is always to have 3 strands on each side, so you can keep your braid balanced. Make a second loaf the same way. Place the braided loaves in greased 10- by 4-inch loaf pans or on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches between them.
5. Beat the remaining egg and brush it on the loaves. Let rise another hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brush the loaves with egg again, then sprinkle on poppy or sesame seeds.
7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Cool the loaves on a rack.
Yield: 2 challahs
Note: To make rolls, take some dough, about the size of a tennis ball, roll it out to about 12 inches, and swirl into a roll. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven.