While sheltering in place and nannying this summer, my daughter Lena began experimenting with challah baking. She got the recipe from family friend Marnie Nadolne, who didn’t actually make up the recipe herself, but was more than happy to share. Despite the yeast shortage – perhaps caused by increased challah baking during the pandemic – sometimes we’d even get to sample the finished product.
My daughter said Nadolne’s son Benjy, who spent an education-filled gap year in Israel with Lena, gave her a challah for her birthday in April. Here’s what she said of her newfound baking hobby:
“Benjy’s mom’s challah is amazing. He gave me one around my birthday because I asked, I think, then I wanted to see if I could make it that good and thought it would be a fun activity for my kids [as nanny], so we started to do it every Friday and I needed practice to get good. One time I made it too salty, one time it didn’t rise. I didn’t know about the second rise. And now I’m very good at it.”
Here’s the recipe:
1 packet of rapid-rise yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup raisins for raisin challah
1 cup dark chocolate chips for chocolate chip challah
Sesame or poppy seeds
Combine the yeast, water and a pinch of sugar, stir and let sit.
In a bowl, mix 1 egg, oil, sugar and salt. (Add teaspoon of cinnamon if making raisin challah).
Add water-yeast mixture and stir.
Mix in 2 cups of bread flour, then add chocolate chips or raisins at this point, if desired. Add the rest of the flour and mix/knead until smooth and no longer sticky. Shape into a ball.
Let dough rise in an oiled bowl covered with a towel until it has about doubled in size (around an hour). A warm, humid environment is ideal.
Dump dough onto lightly floured countertop. Don’t punch down, but gently shape. Cut and braid. Put on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Beat the second egg in bowl. Brush liberally onto the braided challah. Add seeds if desired and let rise about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 30 minutes. Take out immediately and cool on a rack.
Roni Robbins is AJT’s associate editor.