Recipe: Chavurah Challah

By Jennifer Cohen

[Note: Jen Cohen bakes challah for most of our Fourth Friday Shabbats. She says “I think this is the most current recipe.  I confess that I change it all the time.”] 

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water, separated
  • pinch of sugar
  • 3 large or extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 5–6 cups flour (I typically use 1-2 cups whole wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • cornmeal
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with a little bit of water
  • sesame or poppy seeds
  1. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat, set aside to cool a bit.
  2. Pour about a tablespoon of butter into a large bowl and swirl it around to coat the inside.
  3. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water, with a pinch of sugar and set aside to proof.
  4. In a stand mixer or other large bowl, beat together eggs, honey and melted butter. Add remaining 1 cup warm water and mix well. Add yeast mixture and blend well. Add flour, with salt, 1 cup at a time, blending well after each addition until dough is thick enough to work by hand.
  5. Spoon dough onto floured work surface and knead for several minutes. If you’d like to add raisins (1-1 1/2 cups), here is where you would incorporate them, along with enough additional flour to make a smooth elastic dough.
  6. Rub the top of the dough in the buttered bowl, then flip the dough over and nestle inside. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm place until doubled in size. I let this part go on for quite a while—like 5 hours or so.
  7. When ready to bake, line a baking tray with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Set oven to 350 degrees.
  8. For the Chav, I divide dough into 3 pieces and roll each into a long rope. I braid the ropes and then curve the braid into a circle, pinching the ends together. For a smaller gathering, I divide the dough in half and then make 2 smaller braided loaves.
  9. Cover with that clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.
  10. Brush the top and sides of the challah with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds if desired. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, depending on loaf size, until golden brown.

**Pumpkin Challah for Challoween: Replace 1/2 the butter and 1 of the eggs with a cup of pumpkin puree. Add a little pumpkin pie spice to the dough.

**Apple and Honey Challah for Rosh Hashanah: Add 2 finely diced granny smith apples to regular challah. Brush the top with 1 stick melted butter and 1/2 cup honey, before baking and again when just out of the oven.

**Thanksgiving Challah: same as Challoween Challah, but add 1 cup of dried cranberries. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds after the egg wash.

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