Challah, meaning “offering” in Hebrew, is a traditional Jewish egg bread that, as far as I am concerned, has no peer. It is served with every Sabbath meal and on Jewish holidays. This nondairy version can be baked inside the machine, or the dough can be removed and shaped into a traditional braid or coil and then baked in the oven.
Jewish egg bread is steeped in symbolism. The three strands of the braid represent truth, peace, and justice. The poppy seeds on top represent the manna that fell from heaven in the desert to feed the wandering tribes according to the Old Testament. You can also shape this into a coil, a circular loaf with no beginning and no end, baked for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Place the ingredients in the pan according to the order in the manufacturer’s instructions. Set crust on medium and program for the Basic cycle; press Start. (This recipe is not suitable for use with the Delay Timer.) Optional- During Rise 3, carefully lift the lid and sprinkle just the top of the dough with the poppy or sesame seeds. Close the lid to finish the rising and baking.
When the baking cycle ends, immediately remove the bread from the pan and place it on a rack. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.
Makes 1 large braided or coiled loaf
Line a large baking sheet with Gefen Parchment Paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
To make a braided loaf: Divide the dough into three equal portions. Using your palms, roll each portion into a fat cylinder, 12 inches long for the one-and-a-half-pound dough, or 14 inches long for the two-pound dough, tapered at each end. Be sure the ropes are of equal size and shape. Place the three ropes parallel to each other on the baking sheet. Begin braiding from the center of the ropes rather than at the ends for a more even shape. Take one of the outside ropes and fold it over the center rope, then repeat the movement from the opposite side. Continue by alternating the outside ropes over the center rope. When completed, rotate the half braid and repeat the procedure from the middle out to the other ends. Adjust or press the braid to make it look even. Tuck the ends under, pinching the ends into tapered points.
To make a coiled loaf: With your palms, roll the entire portion of dough into a rope about 20 inches long. Place the rope on the baking sheet, with one end in the center. Coil the rope around that end to make a loose spiral. Pinch the end under.
Cover the shaped dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough is almost doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to one hour. Do not let this dough rise longer before baking or it may collapse in the oven.
Twenty minutes before baking, set the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beat the egg and water glaze with a fork until foamy. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the loaf with some of the egg glaze and sprinkle with the seeds, or leave plain. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the loaf is deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom with your finger. Immediately remove the bread from the pan and place it on a cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.
Recipe excerpted with permission from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker’s 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine (Harvard Common Press, 2000). Buy on Amazon.