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
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with a little bit of water
- sesame or poppy seeds
- Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat, set aside to cool a bit.
- Pour about a tablespoon of butter into a large bowl and swirl it around to coat the inside.
- Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water, with a pinch of sugar and set aside to proof.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When ready to bake, line a baking tray with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Set oven to 350 degrees.
- 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.
- Cover with that clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.
- 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.