Adapted from Friday Night Dinners (Random House Canada, 2008)
Cookbook author Bonnie Stern’s grandmother Jenny Soltz had eleven children. They were very poor but she kept her family in flour for the winter by winning first place in the county fair with her amazing round challahs. The prize was flour.
- 4 cups all purpose flour (up to 8 cups)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons instant dry yeast (or 2 packages)
- 1 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
In a large bowl combine 4 cups of flour with the sugar, yeast, and salt. In another bowl beat the eggs with the water and oil. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture (or vice versa) with a wooden spoon (it will be sticky). Stir in additional flour until you can't stir anymore. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in just enough flour so that the dough doesn't stick to your hands too badly. (This can also be done in a stand mixer.) Knead about 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a mixer. The mixture may need up to 6 to 7 cups flour — but don't worry. Add extra flour gradually — it is always better to have a moist dough than a dry one. (Dough should feel like a woman's inner thigh!)
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and then a tea towel. Set in a warm place to rise. Let rise until doubled, about one hour. Punch the dough down and divide in half. Divide each half into three (or four) strands and roll into long ropes. Braid strands together. Place in oiled loaf pans or on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise one hour or until doubled. Brush the challahs gently with lightly beaten egg. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven 25 to 30 minutes. Brush bread with egg wash twice during baking time. Reduce oven temperature if bread is browning too much. A meat thermometer inserted into the bread should be 190°F.