2 (2-oz.) bars fresh yeast (also works with 5 packets/a scant ¼ cup dry yeast)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 (5-lb.) bag high gluten flour
2 cups sugar
1½ tbsp. salt
5 large eggs
1¼ cups canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Combine water and yeast in a medium bowl until yeast is dissolved. Stir in 1 tbsp. of sugar.
Place bowl in a warm spot in your kitchen (on top of a warm oven or even on the open oven door of a preheated 250 degree oven works!). Let stand for 10-20 minutes. The mixture will be bubbly and/or foamy.
Note: If nothing is happening after 20 minutes, something is wrong with your yeast and you must start the recipe over again.
Place flour in a very large bowl. Reserve 2 cups of the flour and set aside for later use. Stir in 2 cups sugar and salt to blend.
Push the mixture to the sides of your bowl, creating a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture, 5 eggs, and the oil into the well. Mix until you can no longer stir it. Continue to knead the dough by hand until it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, while slowly adding in small amounts of flour as needed from the reserved 2 cups. The dough should be smooth and elastic. If the dough is very sticky, add in some more flour (do not exceed using the 2 cups of reserved flour. If you have used up the 2 cups and the dough is still very sticky, add a little bit of oil).
Brush the top of the dough with oil. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in bulk. Punch down, replace towel and let rise for another 1½ hours. Punch the dough down again, and turn onto a lightly floured surface.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 7-8 sections (or as many loaves/rolls as you would like to make depending on the size). Shape each section as desired – for braiding, divide into 3, 4 or 6 balls, roll into strands and braid. Pinch the ends together and place onto prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.
Brush challahs with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.
Bake challahs 25-35 minutes until golden brown, rotating baking sheets in oven as necessary with each batch. Cool on wire racks.
Chocolate Babka Variation
To use one portion of divided challah dough for a delicious babka, simply roll out dough into a very large rectangle approximately 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Drizzle 1-2 tbsp. oil over dough, spreading a thin sheet of oil over the whole rolled out dough. Combine ½ cup good quality cocoa, ½ sugar, 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar and 1/3 cup chocolate chips in a small bowl. Mix to blend. Sprinkle mixture evenly over dough. Carefully roll up dough lengthwise, bend roll in half and twist. Place twisted roll in greased loaf or challah pan. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle streusel topping over top if desired. Bake for 25-35 minutes at 350 degrees until top is nicely browned and filling is bubbling.
Ready in: 270 Minutes
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