Here’s the thing about having kids in activities and parents who work: By the end of the week, we’re done. However, as our kids remind us (constantly), it’s our responsibility to feed them. Three times a day. Even during the summer. Even on holidays. Even on weekends.
Shabbat is the one time we could get away without doing an actual meal. As long as we have challah, they could largely care less about what the main dish is. (They also know that isn’t going to fly in our house, but that’s not the point here). No matter what the main protein or veggie is the challah is the main event.
When it comes to cooking, I don’t mind freelancing. Baking is not one of those things and I needed a reliable recipe. Plenty are out there, but none are as good as this. It’s been declared the best challah even by sources are unbiased as my wife and children, so you know it’s good. And they don’t just say that so I’ll continue to cook meals for them.
The chain of custody of the recipe is a long and winding one; it belongs to the sister of my wife’s best friend’s sister-in-law, Amy Mizrachi-Stopnicki, (who, since we got the recipe a long time ago, has authored the cookbook Kosher Taste). Aside from it tasting great, what makes it really great is that you don’t have to do the really tedious parts like waiting for it to rise, punching it down, kneading, etc. Because all the ingredients go into a bread machine. Is that cheating? Of course not. Think of all the time you’ll get back.
Challah (shared with the blessing of Amy Mizrachi-Stopnicki)
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
Pinch of sugar
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
1 egg yolk
2-3 teaspoons salt
½ cup sugar
5 strong squirts honey (about 5 tablespoons)
4½ cups bread flour
Combine warm water, yeast, and pinch of sugar – set aside
Combine the rest of the ingredients in the bread machine.
Pour water mix over the flour
Set machine to dough setting.
When the dough is finished, shape into 2 challahs. Brush lightly with oil, cover, and let rise 30-60 minutes.
Wash the top with an egg
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Here’s what we’ve learned from a lot of trial and error:
- The warm water should be about 105 degrees.
- Canola or vegetable oil is best; we’ve tried grapeseed oil and it doesn’t work as well.
- Don’t use good honey. We’ve tried good, raw, organic honey and it definitely affects the rise and the challah ends up too dense. Cheaper honey in the plastic bear is the way we’ve found works best.
- The dough makes about 40 ounces of dough. We’ve done everything from a large batch of challah rolls to one challah (either braided or a turban for the Rosh Hashanah). But it can be made into as many challahs as you want. Our problem, however, is what gets made, gets eaten. In a perfect world, some would survive to Saturday morning for French toast. It doesn’t. So we typically bake three from one batch and the other two get wrapped and frozen. It freezes great and thaws easily. Finish it in a warm oven (whatever the lowest temp it will turn on at is great) and it’s ready for Shabbat the next week.