February 26, 2013
4 tablespoons active dry yeast
4 cups warm water
1/2 cup honey, sugar or sucanat
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
12 cups spelt flour, a little more only if needed
1 egg, beaten with 1/4 cup water
Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)
Mix the yeast, water and honey or sugar in a big bowl, and let the mixture bubble for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, oil and salt, and beat. Add the flour, and mix thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to a lightly-floured flat working surface, and knead for about 15 minutes, turning the dough a quarter of a turn every 2-3 minutes and punching it down often to eliminate any air pockets (or transfer the mixture to the bowl of a dough maker. Set for 10 minutes of kneading). Transfer the kneaded dough into a big mixing bowl (remember, it will expand). Sprinkle flour all around the dough. Let rise, covered with a cloth, in a warm draft-free area for 2 hours.
Shape the Challah: divide the dough into 4 pieces. Divide each piece into thirds and roll each third into a long thin rope. Pinch the 3 ropes together at one end to hold them in place. Braid, and place the braid on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Place the loaves well apart in the pan (you might need more than a pan: Bake one at a time). Brush each loaf with the egg-and-water mixture, and top with seeds if desired. Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Raisin Challah: Served on Rosh Hashanah. Add two cups of raisins to the dough, shape it into 4 round loaves (for each loaf, make a long thin rope, and roll it into a coil)