Baking challah is a great activity for parents and children to do together. The bread does not need to be perfect. Your kids might like to make individual small loaves and put one on a small plate for each guest.
According to Freda Reider in her book The Hallah Book, the word “hallah” refers to “a small portion of prebaked dough that the Jews of the Temple period gave as a weekly Sabbath offering to their priests who devoted all their time to ritual, study, worship and Temple service. The shape was originally round, white, and sweet. When the Temple was destroyed, the bread-offering to the priests ceased. To commemorate the ancient law of setting aside hallah, many Jews to this day separate a small portion of prebaked dough which they bless and burn. This small piece of separated dough is now called ‘challah’ which means “offering,” and the sweet white bread itself is now also known a challah.”
1 Tbs. yeast
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
pinch of saffron
1 large whole egg
1 egg white, save the yolk
1/4 cup cold water
5 to 6 cups all purpose flour
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp. water
Mix the yeast and sugar together and dissolve in 1/2 cup warm water.
Dissolve the 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 cup boiling water, then stir in the vegetable oil, salt and saffron.
Beat together the whole egg and egg white.
Stir the 1/4 cup cold water into the sugar mixture. When cool, add the beaten eggs.
Place the yeast mixture in a large mixing bowl (of an electric mixer) and add the egg/sugar mixture, mixing well with the dough hook.
Stir in 5 to 6 cups of flour, mixing until dough begins to hold together.
Knead dough for three minutes in the mixer (or by hand for 10 minutes) and then knead another minute by hand.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let it rise for an hour in a warm place.
Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a log, and roll out one log at a time (using your palms) on a lightly floured surface. Leave the center of the log thicker and roll until the log is about 24 inches and the ends about 1 to 2-inches thick.
Braid or coil dough into 2 loaves, cover with a towel and let them rise again for another hour. If using raisins, place them in as you coil the bread.
Preheat oven to 400°F, brush loaves with the egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of water.
Bake for 5 minutes at 400°F, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake another 20 to 25 minutes or until bread tests done (knock on it!).
Spritz the challahs with water every five minutes while baking, using a plant mister, (this is a great job for your child!)
Makes 2 challah or 16 small loaves. If you make one huge challah it may need about 40 minutes to bake and get the inside done.