Monday, October 20, 2008

per abby's request, the challah recipe below is the one my pops and I have used over the years. for the jewish new year, raisins are standard, but i'm not a fan and prefer leave them out. i plan on trying out this recipe very soon.

adapted from the silver palate cookbook

2 cups milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter
1/3 cup sugar (I prefer to use honey instead)
2 packages active dry yeast
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon cold water
poppy seeds

Bring milk, 6 tablespoons of butter, and the honey to a boil. Remove from heat, pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl, and let it cool until lukewarm.

Stir the yeast into the milk mixture and let stand for 10 minutes.

Beat 3 of the eggs well in a small bowl, and stir them and the salt into the milky-yeasty mixture.

Stir in 5 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you achieve a sticky dough. Flour a work surface lightly and turn the dough out onto it. Wash and dry the bowl.

Sprinkle additional flour over the dough and begin kneading, adding more flour as necessary, until you have smooth elastic dough.

Smear the reserved 2 tablespoons of butter around the inside of the bowl and add the ball of dough into the bowl, turning to coat it lightly with butter. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside (in a warm, draft-free place) to let dough rise until tripled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cut into halves. Cut each half into 3 pieces. Roll the pieces out into long "snakes" about 18 inches long. Braid three of the snakes together into a loaf and tuck the ends under. Repeat with remaining snakes. Either leave as braided loaves or shape each braid into a round loaf.

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with the cornmeal, and transfer the loaves to the sheet. Leave room between the loaves for them to rise. Cover the loaves with the towel and let rise until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Beat the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon cold water together well in a small bowl. Brush this egg wash evenly over the loaves. Sprinkle immediately with poppy seeds to taste.

Set baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when their bottoms are thumped. Cool completely on racks before wrapping. Makes 2 large loaves.

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