Everything Challah Recipe
My daughters and I started making this challah every Friday morning, many years ago. The recipe is adapted from one of my best friends' Julie Hermelin’s “One Mighty Fine Challah” recipe. It's also the only recipe in my book 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, as making this challah marks the beginning of our weekly practice we call Tech Shabbat, where we turn off all our screens, every week, from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. It has completely changed our lives. :)
1 cup hot water (95–105 degrees)
1 packet (or 2 1/4 tsp) fast-acting yeast
3½ cups of flour (plus a little more to sprinkle on counter for kneading)
2 eggs (1 for bread, 1 for topping)
⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup canola oil (plus 2 to 3 tablespoons for greasing the bowl)
½ tbsp salt
oil spray (for pan)
Everything-bagel-seed topping (otherwise known as “Tornado Dust.” You can order it from the Great Barrington Bagel Company, or buy the Trader Joe’s version. You can also make it yourself from poppy seeds, sesame seeds, toasted garlic, and kosher salt.)
Note: Make the dough in the morning so the challah has all day to rise.
1. Combine 1 cup hot water (hot, but not so hot as to burn you or kill the yeast) with one packages of fast-rising yeast.
2. Add ⅓ cup sugar to the bowl and mix together.
3. Let the yeast mixture sit for at least 30 minutes until it gets activated. It will look foamy and “bloom.”
4. Add 2 cups flour. This is a great time to taste the dough (before the raw egg is added).
5. In a separate bowl, beat together one egg and ¼ cup canola oil. Then stir this into the flour mixture. Slowly add the remaining 1½ cups of flour and ½ tablespoon salt.
6. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and then dump the dough onto it. Flour your hands so the dough won’t stick to them, and knead away. Push, pull, knead, fold the dough on itself, and repeat. The feeling of dough between your fingers and flour being mixed together on Friday mornings is truly one of life’s great pleasures. We sometimes sing the following song as we knead the challah: “Challah, challah, challah, watch it rise! Push your love into it, way up high!” (Once Odessa and Blooma were fighting when we were kneading the challah, and some anger was pushed into that challah, too, and it turned out to be our fluffiest one ever. Lots of hot air is apparently also good to make it rise.)
7. Grease bowl with 2–3 tablespoons of canola oil. Put dough back in, and cover tightly with plastic wrap, then place a damp towel on top. Allow to sit and rise for approximately five hours.
8. Then, divide the fluffy risen dough into three separate balls. With your hands, roll out each of the three separate balls into a medium-length ropelike strand. Braid the strands together, then place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
9. In a separate bowl, beat one egg. Brush the top of the challah with the egg for a lovely glaze effect. Then add the “everything” on top. Give the challah a second rise for extra fluffiness, letting it rise for another hour or two.
10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and slide that loaf of love in the oven. Bake for about 25 or 30 minutes. To test for doneness, gently poke the challah. It should give a bit but shouldn’t be too doughy.
11. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit. We like to serve it by tearing off a piece and sharing it to the person next to you.