I love challah. As a little girl I would tunnel my way through a whole challah. Literally borough my through still I could wear it like an oversized cuff bracelet. (I know a little gross sorry) Well as I grew so did my love of carbs. Limiting carbs is not something I enjoy, but for my health and well being I try. However, I still indulge in my Shabbos challah*. I love it and try to make every week. Or at least have -home made, (from the freezer counts) every week. Below is my basic go-to one bowl recipe. I hate the ones were you proof the yeast in one bowl, mix the eggs in another, flour in a third then combine everything in a fourth bowl! Too much! This is a one bowl simplistic masterpiece.
Id challah has been your third rail, or you never manage to get it right try this one. Lets call this gateway challah. Trust me there will be others to come.
4 cups warm water (like what you would bathe an infant in)
4 tbsp active dry yeast
1 cup sugar
¾ cup honey or agave
4 eggs (room temperature, so leave them out for an hour or so, or in a pinch put them in a bowl with hot water for 10 min)
5 lb bag flour, high gluten preferred
1 cup vegetable oil plus more for oiling the bowl.
1 ½ tbsp. kosher salt
3 eggs separated
Toppings and fillings to taste
Large mixing bowl
Plastic wrap and kitchen towels to cover bowl
Pans or cookie sheets
Non-stick spray, parchment paper or silpat liners
In large bowl mix 4 cups warm water, yeast and sugar. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Cover until froths or bubbles. This tells you the yeast is alive and will let you challah rise. If your yeast doesn’t bubble start again.
Add 4 eggs, oil, honey and salt. Mix until eggs are broken up. Add in flour. Mix by hand about 5-7 minutes until smooth ball forms. Use some elbow grease its worth it. The longer you kneed, the more gluten will develop and the better texture you will be rewarded with.
Once you have a ball, gather the dough on side of the bowl. Drizzle in about 1 tbsp oil and swirl it around bowl then move dough over to coat ball and the other side of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and then a dark towel. Place in a warm place to rise about 2 hours.
When dough has at least doubled in size portion out and braid/shape as desired. I usually get 6 nice size loaves or a collection of small rolls and pull apart or larger challot. Place in greased pan, or on baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper. Cover with towels until all the dough is shaped to avoid drying out. [This would be the step where you would put a filling in your challah if you were inclined]
HACK ALERT: I skip the typical second rise. How? Did you notice I had no pre-heat instructions? That’s because I place my challah in the oven and let the pre-heating do my second rise! Aint nobody got time for second rising!
After challot are shaped, mix 3 egg yolks and the white from one egg in a small bowl with 1 tsp water. Mix until combined. Brush on top and sprinkle with toppings of choice.
Place in cold oven and close door. Then turn on to 350. When your oven indicates to you that it has reached the desired temperature (mine beeps), check em out. They should have doubled in size. Keep and eye on them from now on rotating as needed. They can take anywhere from 25-40 minutes to bake depending on your desired level of doneness.
A good general rule of thumb is when the top and bottom are golden and if you thump the bottom gently you hear a slight echo its done.
Shabbat Shalom and enjoy!
*Please consult your Rabbi regarding the prayers and blessings over challah