In 1992, Irwin Lebow ’48, PhD ’51, submitted this recipe to Moment Magazine’s Ultimate Challah Contest. The judges named it the top recipe in the non-traditional challah category. Lebow called it a liberal adaptation of a recipe by Ruth Brooks in Food for Thought (Sisterhood of Temple Emunah, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1972). Moment called it “A light, exotically flavored, delicious-tasting loaf.”
Makes 2 large or three medium loaves
1/4 c. lukewarm water (approx. 110°)
3 envelopes dry yeast (quick-rising)
1/2 c. honey
1 7/8 c. lukewarm water
3/4 c. vegetable oil
poppy seeds or sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. salt
3 Tbsp. dried rosemary
7 c. bread flour (approx.)
1 egg, beaten
Dissolve the yeast in the 1/4 c. water. Combine the honey, 1 7/8 c. water, oil, salt, and rosemary in the bowl of electric mixer. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture and mix thoroughly.
Add the flour slowly while mixer is running at slow speed. Mix in as much flour as the mixer can handle. Mix in the remaining flour by hand. (A large, heavy-duty mixer can handle all the flour.) You may want to reserve a little of the flour for the kneading which follows.
Turn out the mixture onto a floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. (Note that the density of the dough can be adjusted by the amount of flour added during kneading. To keep the dough light, oil your hands rather than adding flour when the dough gets sticky.)
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, set in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled in bulk—one to two hours, depending upon the temperature.
Punch down, turn out of bowl and knead for a minute or two. Return to the oiled bowl for a second rising, again until doubled in bulk.
Punch down, turn out on surface, knead for a minute and divide according to the number of challot to be made. Divide each of these pieces into a number of equal portions according to your braiding method.
Braid loaves, place on a greased cookie sheet, and allow to rise for 30 to 45 minutes. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if desired.
Bake in a 350° oven for 45-55 minutes, depending upon the size of the loaves.
For High Holidays, substitute anise for rosemary, add raisins after second rising, and shape into round loaves.
Republished with permission from Moment Magazine.