This recipe has been adapted from one included in the first Jewish Catalog compiled and edited by Richard Siegel, Michael Strassfeld and Sharon Strassfeld and published by the Jewish Publication Society of America. The procedure outlined works well during cold weather in the northeastern United States, but you may need to vary it somewhat during other seasons or climates, or if you don't turn your home thermostat down to 55 degrees at night.
This recipe makes four small challahs, unless you prefer three medium size ones, two large ones, or a single gigantic challah.
1 1/2 tsp
1 1/2 cup
unsalted softened margarine
Time: Thursday evening, just before dinner
Take a large bowl and mix together five cups of flour, a half cup of sugar and a scant 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Blend in the two sticks of softened margerine with a pastry blender, fork or knife. Put the bowl aside.
Take another large bowl and mix together the two cups of warm water and the three packages of yeast. Add three cups of flour and one cup of sugar, stirring it all together with a four pronged fork. Cover it with a clean towel or put it in a draft free place like a cold oven, and sit down to a dinner while the mixture rises and bubbles, a process which could take as little as a half hour or as much as an hour and a half, depending on the season, the quality of your yeast (it generally takes longer with compressed yeast), and your heating or air conditioning system.
Thursday evening, after dinner
Beat four eggs and mix them into the yeast mixture, then slowly add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture, mixing it all together with a strong wooden spoon. Small splinters are known to occasionally add an interesting tang to a delicious challah. Dump the whole concoction onto a solid, floured surface and knead, adding as much flour as necessary. If you're in the mood, while kneading, add some raisins and work them through the dough. When you're done kneading, oil a bowl and put the dough in the bowl, gushing it around so that all surfaces of the dough are greased.
Once again cover the bowl with a towel or place it in a draft free spot, set it aside and go enjoy your evening activities. Don't forget to go to maariv and do a crossword puzzle.
Two or three hours later
1. Before you're ready to go to bed, the dough should have doubled. If not, kvetch and stay up later until it does.
2. Punch the dough down, right in the kisser, and knead it a little more. Separate it into four roughly equal parts.
3. Separate each of the four parts into as many pieces as you feel like braiding together, and create your raw masterpieces.
4. Put the loaves on greased pans, leave them in a draft free place, and gay shlufen. But don't forget to set your alarm.
Early the next morning
Get up early, go down to the kitchen, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Break an egg, add a bissel water, beat the egg and water mixture and paint them on the loaves before sprinkling some poppy seeds on top. Gently place the loaves in the over.
About forty minutes later
Remove the loaves from the oven, and gently tap them and listen for the hollow sound that indicates that they are fully baked. Better they sould be a little burnt than you should eat raw dough. Cover tonight's challah and freeze the others in plastic bags