Friday, September 30, 2011

sweet honey-raisin challah

Happy new year, friends! My old friend M first found this recipe and I've made it a few times over the last few years, and decided it's basically foolproof. J and I made it last night, and it was massive -- far bigger than a dinner plate -- and wildly delicious.

Thanks, Diana! She recommends plumping the raisins beforehand by covering with hot water or brandy or fruit juice and letting sit for 3 to 5 minutes. (She also has bread machine variations and a few others on her website.)


1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 packages (1/2 oz./4 1/2 tsp./14g) instant yeast or bread yeast
7 to 8 cups bread flour (approximately)
1/8 tsp. powdered saffron or a pinch of saffron threads (optional)
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz./8 tbsp./113g) butter or margarine, melted (or 1/2 cup vegetable oil may be used)
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups golden raisins, plumped *(See below on How to Plump Raisins)

Egg Wash:
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten and mixed with 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. water


1. In a large mixing bowl, stir the 1 tsp. sugar into the 1 1/2 cups warm water. Sprinkle in yeast and stir well; let stand until frothy or foamy, about 10 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in 7 cups of the flour, saffron (if using) and salt. Add honey, the 1/3 cup sugar, melted butter (or vegetable oil or melted margarine, if using), whole eggs and egg yolks; stir until dough forms.

2. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding enough of the remaining 1 cup flour as necessary to prevent sticking (you may need to add more flour if your dough is still too sticky. Add in one tablspoon at a time until the dough is cohesive). Place dough in a greased glass or ceramic bowl, turning to grease dough all over. Cover bowl with greased plastic wrap or a warm damp kitchen towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in size and indentation remains when dough is poked with 2 fingers, about one hour or so. Punch down dough, transfer dough to work surface, let rest for 10 minutes, then knead in raisins (if using).

3. To Make Round Crown Loaf:
Roll out dough into a 30-inch (76 cm) long rope. Holding one end in place, wind remaining rope around end to form a fairly tight spiral that is slightly higher in the center of dough. Transfer dough to a greased rimmed baking sheet.

4. To Make a 4 rope Braided Loaf:
Divide dough into quarters; roll each quarter into 18-inch (45 cm) long ropes. Place side by side on a greased rimmed baking sheet; pinch ropes together at one end. Starting at pinched end, move second rope from left over rope on its right. Move far right rope over 2 ropes on left. Move far left rope over 2 ropes on right. Repeat until braid is complete; tuck ends under braid.

5. Cover crown loaf or braid loaf with plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in size, about one hour.

6. Egg Wash:
Stir egg yolk with 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. water; brush over loaf (s).

Bake in center of 350°F/180°C oven until deep golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on rack for 15 minutes before slicing.

Makes 1 "generously" large loaf or 2 large loaves

1 comment:

hefk said...

This is delicious.

The amount of dough is formidable and the resulting loaf is indeed generous. I lopped off a hunk to send to the neighbor's knowing we couldn't finish it all on its freshest day, but it would have been prettier to send her a loaf. Next time I will either make multiple loaves or halve the ingredients.

I had pretty good results even with user error. I didn't allow enough time to rise to a full double (probaby either time) and so it finished rising as it baked in the oven. The result was a monster loaf that was stretched out and a little misshapen. Oh well. Tell that to my kids who loved the whole, "yank a handful of buttery goodness and chow down" part of having the Whole Loaf on the table. We ate it for dinner with scrambled eggs. Can we get away with that again as early as next week?