Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Sweet Honey-Raisin Challah

Servings: 1 generously large loaf or 2 large loaves
Challah is a traditional Jewish bread. Unlike the Sabbath, when it is customary to make a bracha, or blessing, over two, twisted or braided loaves, on Rosh Hashanah, the blessing for bread, is made over two round challah loaves. One reason is that a round challah symbolizes a crown, a reminder of the kingship of God, the holiday's most important theme. Another explanation is that the round shape is a symbol of the circle of life and our hope that our lives will continue without end.

Some bake their challah with a ladder on top as a reminder that God decides who will ascend and descend the ladder of life. A lesser known custom is baking challah in the shape of a bird as described in Isaiah: 31:5 As hovering birds, so will the Lord protect Jerusalem.

Important Note:
Amount of Times to Let Dough Rise

The dough should be left to rise twice in this particular recipe. Once, after initially preparing dough and once after dough is shaped.

When making dough on the "dough" cycle in your bread machine, the dough should be removed after the cycle is complete, then the raisins are added, then the dough should be left to rise again for about an hour, then shaped, brushed with egg wash and then baked in your regular oven as directed.

If desired, dried (dehydrated then rehydrated) apples that are diced into small pieces can be added to the dough instead of the raisins, or fresh diced apples may also be used.

1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 packages (1/2 oz./4 1/2 tsp./14g) instant yeast or bread yeast
7 to 8 cups bread flour (approximately)
1/8 tsp. powdered saffron or a pinch of saffron threads (optional)
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz./8 tbsp./113g) butter or margarine, melted (or 1/2 cup vegetable oil may be used)
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups golden raisins, plumped *(See below on How to Plump Raisins)

Egg Wash:
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten and mixed with 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. water

I recommend plumping the raisins before use in this recipe. (See below on How to Plump Raisins)

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir the 1 tsp. sugar into the 1 1/2 cups warm water. Sprinkle in yeast and stir well; let stand until frothy or foamy, about 10 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in 7 cups of the flour, saffron (if using) and salt. Add honey, the 1/3 cup sugar, melted butter (or vegetable oil or melted margarine, if using), whole eggs and egg yolks; stir until dough forms.

2. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding enough of the remaining 1 cup flour as necessary to prevent sticking (you may need to add more flour if your dough is still too sticky. Add in one tablspoon at a time until the dough is cohesive). Place dough in a greased glass or ceramic bowl, turning to grease dough all over. Cover bowl with greased plastic wrap or a warm damp kitchen towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in size and indentation remains when dough is poked with 2 fingers, about one hour or so. Punch down dough, transfer dough to work surface, let rest for 10 minutes, then knead in raisins (if using).

3. To Make Round Crown Loaf:
Roll out dough into a 30-inch (76 cm) long rope. Holding one end in place, wind remaining rope around end to form a fairly tight spiral that is slightly higher in the center of dough. Transfer dough to a greased rimmed baking sheet.

4. To Make a 4 rope Braided Loaf:
Divide dough into quarters; roll each quarter into 18-inch (45 cm) long ropes. Place side by side on a greased rimmed baking sheet; pinch ropes together at one end. Starting at pinched end, move second rope from left over rope on its right. Move far right rope over 2 ropes on left. Move far left rope over 2 ropes on right. Repeat until braid is complete; tuck ends under braid.

5. Cover crown loaf or braid loaf with plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in size, about one hour.

6. Egg Wash:
Stir egg yolk with 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. water; brush over loaf (s).

Bake in center of 350°F/180°C oven until deep golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on rack for 15 minutes before slicing.

Makes 1 "generously" large loaf or 2 large loaves.

Making Challah in Bread Machine
(for dough only)

Amount of ingredients (except for the yeast) need to be cut in half when making the Challah dough in the bread machine.

Into bread machine pan, add (in this order) water, honey, sugar, butter (or margarine or vegetaqble oil if using), eggs, egg yolks, salt, flour and yeast. (Do not let yeast touch liquids.) Choose Dough cycle on your bread machine. When dough cycle is complete, remove dough from pan. Let dough rest for about 5 minutes. Knead in raisins (if using), cover and let rise until about doubled in size, about an hour. Shape, brush with egg wash and bake as directed above.

How to Plump Raisins
Raisins are sometimes soaked in a liquid to plump them (make them soft and moist) before cooking and baking. This may be necessary if raisins are dry and hard. Water is generally used, but fruit juice, brandy or other liquids can be used to add flavor. To plump raisins in water for recipe use, cover them with very warm water and soak for 3 to 5 minutes. Or, place raisins in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the raisins stand for 5 minutes. Drain off the liquid and use the raisins as directed in the recipe. To plump and flavor raisins in other liquids, soak them at room temperature for several hours or overnight. Drain them before using.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall ©2004

Source: DianasDesserts.com
Date: September 4, 2004-Revised on 6-30-06