I am a pretty basic cook. I like to do things well, but bling and time-consuming finesse are not my usual way of doing things. In fact, I like to think of myself as adept in short cuts that belie their ease.
This challah recipe is an example. I am too, uh, frugal, to purchase saffron. And, the yellow hue it gives is really unnecessary to the aroma and flavor, which is the reason to bake bread in your own kitchen. These braided loaves are showy. They impress people who don’t know how easy they are to make. And they are tasty…..very tasty…..the way lots of eggs and butter make white bread. It is one of the few white breads I make.
I came by this recipe from a neurologist’s wife. I could say “my” neurologist’s wife, but it seems weird to have one’s own neurologist. He is a fine doctor who practiced in our city for only a few years. Just the right years for me to benefit from his keen insight and the mental gymnastics his specialty requires. He invited me and my husband to his adult bar mitzvah, where I met his wife and tasted her fabulous bread. I left the saphron in the recipe to honor the original recipe (but I have never included it when making it myself).
How to make Challah
Pour 2 cups boiling water over 1 Tbls. saffron. Strain out threads after cooled.
Combine: Lukewarm water with 1 pkg (Tbls) dry yeast / 1 cup margarine / 1/3 cup brown sugar / 1 Tbls salt / 5 eggs / 3 cups unbleached flour
Knead in enough flour to make a pliable dough that does not stick to your hands (or the bowl, if you are kneading in a mixer with a kneading hook). It will take quite a bit.
Let rise until double.
Punch down. Divide dough into four equal-sized pieces of dough.
Divide each piece into 3 pieces and roll into long “snakes.” Braid these into a long loaf, tucking ends underneath.
Paint with beaten egg and sprinkle with herbs or salt or leave plain.
Let rise until double again. Bake at 350 degrees for 26-33 minutes. Loaves should be lightly browned on the top and should not “squish” when gently pressed in the middle.
Best served warm and, instead of slicing, let people pull off hunks of the challah for individual servings.