I hope that everyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah has a beautiful, sweet holiday. And those who don’t – go ahead and make this challah anyway, it’s delicious. And you don’t have to take my word for it – the winning batch I shared with Melissa – she thought it was excellent too!
1 packet (3/4 oz/7.5 g) active dry yeast
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice or unfiltered apple cider, warmed to lukewarm
1/3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup (80 ml) mild honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading the dough
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
1. In a large bowl, combine the orange juice and 1/4 cup (60 ml) lukewarm water and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let stand 5 minutes – the yeast will get frothy. Stir with a fork.
2. Whisk the oil into the yeast mixture, then whisk in 1 egg, then both of the yolks, one at a time, honey, and salt. Stir until everything is well incorporated.
3. Add the flour and mix using a large spoon until the dough starts to come together in a shaggy, sticky mass. Put the spoon down and knead the dough by hand until it becomes a sticky, singular lump. Sprinkle with more flour and continue knead until the dough is smooth and very slightly stick (but not tacky), 5-10 minutes. [You can also knead the dough on a lightly floured counter, but that just means you have one additional thing to clean. The dough should be smooth, elastic, and soft. If your dough is elastic and somewhat tough, you’ve added too much flour.]
4. Place the dough onto a place or a cutting board and clean out the mixing bowl, making sure to dry it thoroughly. Oil the bowl, and lightly oil the dough (remember to oil the bottom, too). Place the dough inside the bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise for 1 hour, in a warm place, or until the dough has doubled inside the bowl. Using your knuckles, press down the dough, cover, and allow to rise another 1/2 hour. [You can also let the second rise occur over 12-18 hour period in the refrigerator. It should give your resulting challah a richer, more complex taste.]
5. Knead the raisins, if using, into the dough, and divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Roll out each part into a 12-inch long rope, being careful to keep the ropes uniform in girth. Pinch the top of the ropes together and tightly braid them until you reach the end. For a round challah, traditional on Rosh Hashanah, bring the ends together to form a round, braided loaf.
6. Make an egg glaze, by beating the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the loaf all over and allow the loaf to rise another 45 minutes, uncovered. While the challah is rising for the 3rd time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with the rack positioned in the middle. Gently, as not to deflate the dough, brush a second coat of the egg wash over the loaf. Bake challah, until a rich golden brown 35 to 45 minutes (I had to start checking after 25 – mine took 27 minutes). What you’re looking for is a smell of baked bread. You’ll know what I mean the first time around. That will be your first clue to check on your bread. Keep smelling. Once baked, remove to a wire rack an cool completely before serving.
Makes 1 loaf