Here is the recipe for the Challah I made yesterday. It is a tried and true recipe, passed to me from my mother-in-law, who received it (I believe) from one of her dear sisters. It is perfect for making challah french toast with, delicious when eaten fresh out of the oven, and my favorite way to have it is toasted with butter and honey spread on top. It is also pretty. 🙂 It can easily be made diary-free by using shortening to grease the bowl and pan as opposed to butter (which I normally use).
Sweet Vanilla Challah
1 package active dry yeast* (scant tablespoon)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
6-7 cups flour
1 3/4 cups hot water
4 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tablespoon vanilla (vanilla paste works well too, especially if you do half and half)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1. Using mixer, mix yeast, sugar, salt, 2 cups of the flour, water, eggs, oil, & vanilla. Beat 3 minutes. Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, and switch to a wooden spoon (or dough hook on Kitchen Aid) when needed, until too stiff to stir.
2. Knead till soft and springy, and a layer of blisters shows under the skin, adding 1 tablespoon at a time of flour to prevent sticking. Dough will be firm. Place in greased bowl & rise till double, (1-2 hours).
3. Gently deflate. Divide dough into two parts. Divide each section of dough into three even parts and roll and/or stretch the parts out into 6 long even pieces. Using three of the long pieces at a time (so you end up with two loaves) braid the dough starting in the middle and working your way down, and then from the middle up, braiding backwards. Place in greased pan (cookie sheet is ideal, not bread pan)) & cover with plastic wrap; let rise 30-40 minutes. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes (check at 30, the loaf pictured cooked for 35 on a lower rack), until dark golden.
*To test your yeast and make sure it is alive and well (yeast is weird), put the water (roughly 100 degrees F) and sugar in the mixing bowl (the yeast needs the sugar to react properly), and then stir in the yeast. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. If it is fresh enough to cook with there should be a foam that developed on top. If there is no foam, then you need to get fresh yeast for the bread. If it foams up nicely, continue adding the rest of the ingredients and carry on with the recipe.