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This Challah Was On My Grandmother's Table Every Friday Night

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Every so often, we scour the site for cool recipes from our community that we then test, photograph, and feature—this special challah comes from longtime Food52er MrsWheelbarrow.


At my grandmother's house, challah was on the table at every Friday night for Sabbath dinner. For years, her mother-in-law, my great-grandmother Nana, made the bread. When she turned 90, she flat out refused to ever make it again.

We had store-bought challah for a few months until I convinced Nana to show me how to create her exceptional challah. It's still the only challah I make, it's so totally dependable.

Photo by Jenny Huang

Novice bakers should know that it's a wet dough. Sticky, unruly, and challenging, until you let it rest and hydrate and firm up, and then it's glorious. This challah rewards patience.

Even though I have made challah for decades now, I'm still working to master the 6-strand braid. I've never really managed to make a round loaf look like it should, but the flavor of this sweet, eggy, light-textured bread covers for even the humblest looking loaf.

In the last few years, I've been making three 3-strand braided loaves from this one recipe for smaller loaves fit for a household of two. It's fabulous as french toast, egg-in-the-hole, and in my vegetarian Thanksgiving stuffing. Also, this bread freezes really well as an entire loaf, wrapped in foil and tucked into a zip-top bag. To thaw, remove the bread from the bag and defrost the foil-wrapped loaf overnight on the counter.

My Great-Grandmother's Challah

My Great-Grandmother's Challah

MrsWheelbarrow MrsWheelbarrow
Serves 2 large loaves or 4 small

Sponge

  • 5 teaspoons (two packages) active yeast
  • 8 ounces warm water
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Challah

  • 12 ounces warm water
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 ounces canola or peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 ounces honey (wildflower, clover, or other light-colored one)
  • 6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • Coarse cornmeal
  • Egg wash (1 egg yolk + 1 T water)
  • Poppy seeds or Charnushka, to garnish
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Tags: Heirloom Recipes