By Marcy Farrell
I love baking challah. While I was in labor with my firstborn, I baked challah. But my husband and his kids don’t appreciate homemade challah. They prefer Zomick’s.
Still, for the Rosh Hashanah and the Shalosh Regalim I bake challah. To me, homemade challah brings an extra bracha to our home. It smells wonderful. It’s hard work. Now that my youngest is older, she can help me. Sometimes I even take out the bread maker and let her get to work! Making challah feels to me like I am a partner with Hashem providing sustenance for my family.
For Succos I usually make Pumpkin Challah. My husband loves pumpkin anything. I can never have enough cinnamon. The pretty russet color of the challah reminds me of my beautiful children’s red hair.
I use Amy Kritzer’s recipe from her What Jew Wanna Eat blog. Her sense of humor and clear recipes appeal to me. Amy covers her challahs with seeds. I’m not a seed person. I prefer a cinnamon/sugar crumb topping. Here’s her recipe. Please check out her blog and cookbook for more humor and recipes!
- 1 package active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
- ½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
- ½ cup granulated sugar plus 1 teaspoon
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk for the dough, whisked and 1 egg yolk for the glaze
- 4 cups white bread flour (you may need a little more or less)
- Pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc for garnish
- Let’s start with the yeast! Place it in a large mixing bowl for a stand mixer and whisk with warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar (that helps activate the yeast). Let yeast stand until it foams and puffs up, about 10 minutes. If it doesn’t get foamy, your yeast is bad or the water wasn’t the right temperature, so try again!
- Then, using the whisk attachment for the stand mixer, mix in the remaining sugar, pumpkin, oil, vanilla, 1 egg and 1 egg yolk into the yeast mixture. Then add spices and combine and gradually add 3 cups flour and salt and either with a hook attachment using an electric mixer on medium speed or a spoon and your hands until combined. Knead for about 5-10 minutes, adding flour as necessary. Dough should be sticky, and finish kneading by hand on a counter until dough is smooth. Dough will get less sticky as you knead. Dough should be soft, smooth and slightly tacky.
- Place the dough in a bowl greased with oil and cover. Let dough ferment in a warm place until it has at least doubled in size, about 2-3 hours. I put mine on top of a oven heated to the lowest temperature.
- Now, time to braid! Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down. To make 2 challot, divide the dough in half, and keep one half covered. Divide each half into three equal pieces, and stretch out into three strands.
- Secure the three strands at one end and braid until you reach the other end, then tuck the other pieces underneath the challah to secure. Repeat with other half.
- Carefully place the loaves on two parchment lined baking sheets, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let it rise again for 1 ½ hours or until more than doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush last egg yolk generously over challah. Repeat to have two coats an sprinkle with seeds. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and with an internal temperature of 190 degrees F, rotating pans halfway through. (Flip around and switch rack position.) If the challot start to brown too fast, cover with foil until done.