Name and pronunciation: chałka [how-kah]
Type of cuisine: Eastern European Jewish
This is one of the most important types of bread of my childhood, so it took me ages to this recipe perfectly right. My prefect challah is delicate, but not too puffy, never ever dry and with shiny, dark gold crust.
2 challahs • Preparation time: about 35 minutes • Resting time: 1 hours plus 30 minutes • Baking time: about 20 minutes
Challah can be made sweeter if you want it as a dessert or a sweet snack, or less sweet if you would like to use it for an open, savoury sandwich. Adjust sugar accordingly – use 5 or even 6 tablespoons of sugar, if you like your bread a little sweeter, and reduce it down to 2 tablespoons, if you prefer your bread less sweet.
If you decide to make your challah less sweet, you can also top is with poppyseeds or sesame seeds, instead the sweet crumble.
✽ 550 g all-purpose flour
✽ ½ cup warm milk
✽ ½ cup warm water
✽ 30 g butter
✽ 1 egg
✽ 5 tablespoons sugar
✽ 1 tablespoon instant yeast
✽ 1 tablespoon butter
✽ 1 tablespoon flour
✽ 1 tablespoon sugar
Melt butter in a small pot and set aside to cool.
Sift the flour, add all ingredients, including cooled, melted butter and knead for at least 20 minutes, until the dough is silky smooth.
Place it a bowl, cover with a tea towel and put in a warm place for it to rise for about 1 hour. Use these tips on raising a perfect dough.
After the dough has doubled its size, take it out on a worktop and knead for few seconds. Split it in two, cover one half with a tea towel and spilt the other one into six equal parts. Roll out each part to form 6 equal strands.
Lay the six strands side-by-side, then pinch all 6 tops together so they are connected at the top. Fold the pinched bit underneath, so the strands do not fall apart. Braid your challah slowly, carefully following the directions below (scroll down for photos).
Lay out all the strands to make it look like a 6-arm octopus and number them in your head them from 1 to 6 left to right. Now, it is time to weave! Take the strand 1 and place it all the way to the right, behind the strand 6.
Now take the strand 6 and place it all the way to the left. Your strands will now run 6, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, with strands 1 and 6 running on top of other strands. Strand 1 is first across and strand 6 is just below.
Now notice the middle of your challah, which is in between strands 3 and 4.
Take strand 1, move it over strand 6 and to the middle of your challah, so between strands 3 and 4. Your order now is 6, 2, 3, 1, 4 and 5.
Now take strand 2 and place it all the way to the right making it 6, 3, 1, 4, 5 and 2. The middle is now between strands 1 and 4. Take strand 6 and put it down over strand 2 into the middle.
In short, the general rule of weaving is this: you need two strands across your challah, one on top, one below. You place the one on top over the one on the bottom and in the middle of your challah. Then add another across strand coin in the opposite direction to the one you have left. Having two strands across again, always bring the top one across the bottom one in the middle of your challah. Repeat until you finish braiding all the strands.
At the end, pinch all strands together and fold underneath.
When you finish braiding both challahs, proof them in a warm place and covered with tea towels for about 30 minutes.
While you are proofing your challahs, make the sweet crumble. Simply combine all ingredients, form a neat ball and place in a fridge.
Once your challahs are proofed, cover them with egg white or egg wash, sprinkle with sweet crumble (the best way is to grate chilled crumble and sprinkle on your loaves) and bake in 180ºC for about 20-25 minutes.