This weekend, Jews all over the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah - the start of the Jewish New Year. One of the symbolic foods of this holiday is a loaf of round Challah. For those that are unfamiliar with Challah, it is a braided Jewish egg bread (check it out here). On Rosh Hashana, the challah is round to represent the unending cycle of life. I have made Challah, but I've never made it round. The swirled shape is definitely a learned technique. I'm happy to say I perfected it after making close to fifty loaves. Yes that's right - fifty. I was hired by the kosher caterer at my local Hillel to make all the round challahs for UF Hillel's Rosh Hashanah dinner and services. Although by Day 3 of non-stop challah-making I was exhausted, the smell of fresh baked bread wafting out through the oven doors made me forget all my troubles, take a deep breath, and inhale the incredibly fantastic smelling promise of a sweet new year. L'shana Tova!
Adapted From: Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon plus
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 3/4 cups water, lukewarm
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 to 10 cups all-purpose flour
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water. Wait 5-10 minutes for yeast to "bloom".
2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. I normally get closer to 10 cups of flour rather than 8.
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it with cooking spray, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, kitchen towel, or flour sack towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off.
4. Punch down dough, cover again and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
5. Turn the dough on to a floured surface and divide in half. The trick to forming the dough into a circle shape is the less you handle it, the better. Form one half into a log and then flatten the log. Roll dough up like you would with a cinnamon roll. When you get to the end, tuck the end piece underneath the bottom of the loaf and set the loaf on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with other half of dough. These loaves come out big, you will probably want to use one baking sheet per each loaf.
6. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Let rise another hour. You do not need to cover it this time. If you do, your towel will stick to the egg wash and it will get messy.
7. With about 20 minutes left of rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees. After the full hour of the second rising, brush loaves again with egg wash.
8. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.Cool loaves on a rack.