This challah will make your house smell like a bakery. If you’ve never baked your own challah before, don’t be intimidated – the process is time-consuming (you’ll need four to five hours), but the steps themselves are simple. The base recipe without the topping works great for savory challah – bake it plain or sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning.
In a large bowl, mix the yeast, warm water, and 1/4 cup of the honey. Let it rest for five minutes.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup honey, the oil, eggs, seltzer, salt, and two cups of the flour to the bowl. Mix to combine, Continue adding the flour two cups at a time, mixing after each addition, until a soft dough is formed. Knead with your hands until the dough comes together – it should be smooth and less sticky. Depending on your kneading, this can take 10 to 15 minutes. (You can also knead using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook for eight to 10 minutes.
Clean out the bowl and grease it with oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover it with parchment paper or a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about one hour and 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together the coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, and flour. Mix until throughly combined and set aside.
Line two 18-by-13-inch baking sheets with parchment paper.
Once the dough has risen, divide it into four equal portions – one for each loaf. Divide each portion into thirds for braiding (you will have 12 portions altogether). Roll each portion between your hands to form a long rope.
To braid the loaves, take three ropes and pinch them together at one end. Braid like you would braid hair – take the right strand and bring it over the middle strand so it becomes the middle strand. Do the same with the left strand, so it becomes the middle strand. Repeat until you get to the end of the ropes; then pinch the strands together at the end. Repeat with the remaining ropes to make three more challahs.
Place two challahs on each of the prepared baking sheets. Beat together the egg yolk and water for the egg wash, then brush the tops of the challahs with the egg wash and top with the cinnamon crumb topping. Cover the braided challahs with parchment or clean kitchen towels and allow them to rise until doubled in size, about one hour 30 minutes.
When the challahs are almost finished rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the challahs are golden brown and feel hollow when knocked. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store extra challah in airtight zip-top bags in the freezer for up to two months.
This recipe doesn’t make enough for the weekly blessing on challah (called “taking challah”), which ancient tradition dictates must be made with a whole bag of flour (more than 14 cups in modern times). In order to get the required amount of flour you will need to double this recipe.
If you don’t want to braid the challahs, you can purchase a challah mold, available online and at most kosher stores. Alternatively, use round metal cake pans to make pull-apart challahs. Grease four to six cake pans with oil (six, eight, and ten-inch sizes all work). Roll pieces of the challah dough into two-inch balls and place them in the prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 40 minutes (depending on the size of the pans), until golden brown.
Excerpt from Kosher Cookbook for the Family, by Jamie Feit, published by Rockridge Press. Copyright ©️ 2021 by Callisto Media, Inc. All rights reserved.