Designer Alison Chemla on the Art of Challah Making
’Tis the season.
Just in time for the holiday season, Alison Chemla, creative director and founder of Alison Lou Jewelry, takes us into her kitchen to show off her favorite way to make Challah bread. Known as a Jewish egg bread, this braided beauty is no small feat—Challah is an art form, and Chemla is here to show you all her tips and tricks. Watch it all go down here.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast (about 3 1⁄2 tsp)
1 tbsp of lukewarm water for about 10 minutes until it’s foamy on top
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil; more for greasing bowl
5 large eggs
1 tbsp salt
8 to 8 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling yeast and
1 tbsp sugar in 1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
1. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in four eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (Knead in an electric machine for about eight minutes.)
2. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for one hour until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover, and let rise again in a warm place for another hour.
3. To make a six-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into six balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and one and a half inches wide. Place the six strands in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over two strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over two. Move the second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least two inches in between.
4. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze bread or let rise another hour.
5. If baking immediately, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. If freezing, remove from the freezer five hours before baking. Then dip your index finger in the egg wash, then into poppy or sesame seeds and then onto a mound of bread. Continue until bread is decorated with seeds.
6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 28 minutes or until golden. Cool loaves on a rack.
Photo: Courtesy of Alison Chemla
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