Submitted by Chaya Shifra Sadoff
Look, I know there are about a million challah recipes out there. But trust me: this one is different.
I like breaking rules, and am notorious for not following recipes. Which is why we were never really happy with our challah for the first few years of our marriage — I tried this recipe, that recipe, the other recipe and every time I partially winged it. It always came out different, but never quite right.
My two favorite recipes were from two of my friends – but when I made them they never came out quite like the originals (even if I “followed directions”). Aside for that, one recipe was a bit sweeter than I liked and denser than my husband liked, while the other was too salty, and the dough was gooey and hard to work with.
Until one day, when I made a cross between the two.
And it was perfect. Fluffy but moist. Sweet enough, but not cake-like. Not too salty, not too dense: perfect.
Time passed, and my preferences changed. I swapped part of the white wheat flour out for white whole wheat, and the challah held up fine.
Then I tried with spelt. Delicious.
Part white spelt and part whole. Still amazing.
Olive oil instead of canola? Still yum.
Coconut sugar instead of white sugar? Honey? Silan? It all worked.
I’ve tasted and tried other spelt challah recipes, but have never had a recipe turn out as moist, fluffy and delicious as this one.
And, for this rule-breaking, non-recipe-follower, it is really the perfect recipe.
Mix the first three ingredients (2 c. water, yeast and 1 T sugar) in a glass jar and set it aside to proof.
Place 18 c flour in a large mixing bowl. Mix it to air it out, and then make a well in the middle.
Pour all other ingredients around the sides of the well, allowing them to “fall in” to the middle. Once all other ingredients have been added, pour the proofed yeast mixture in as well.
Knead it all into a lovely, if slightly wet, dough. (If you’re using spelt flour, keep in mind that the gluten in spelt is more delicate, and it should be kneaded until just combined — don’t overdo it!)
Sprinkle your dough with flour and let it rise for 40 minutes.
Pour oil on your hands and on the dough, and knead again. (If you’re using spelt flour, using a ‘stretch and fold’ technique is ideal.)
Let the dough rise again for 1.5 hours.
Braid, and allow braided challos to rise another 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 350F till … done. (In my 8″ challah pans, it takes about 30 minutes for them to be perfect in my current oven, but every oven is different — in my old oven it was 26 minutes)