by Daniel Rogov
Prepared especially for the celebration of the Sabbath and holidays, challah is a rich, egg-based white bread possessed of a delicate aroma, taste and texture that sits very nicely indeed on the palate. Generally braided but sometimes served in loaf form, the ideal challah is well browned on the exterior and has a fluffy, deep yellow or pure white interior. An excellent accompaniment to a meal, challah is also appropriate for sandwiches, but when served with a light coating of honey and butter, it is indeed a delicacy.
1/2 oz (15 gr.) active dry yeast
Combine the yeast and sugar with 1/4 cup warm water and set aside, uncovered, for 5 - 10 minutes.
Into a large mixing bowl, sift 4 cups of flour and the salt. Make a well in the center of the flour-salt mixture and drop into this the oil, the whole eggs and 1 1/4 cups of the warm water- yeast mixture. Mix, working the liquids into the flour. When well mixed, knead on a floured board until the dough is smooth. If too runny, add flour until the mixture becomes elastic.
Place the dough in a large bowl, brush the top with oil, cover with a towel and let stand to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Punch the dough down, cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk.
Divide the dough into three equal parts and, with floured hands, roll each piece into a strip, all of equal length. Braid the strips and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise again until double in size. Brush the top with the egg yolks and sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Bake in a moderately hot oven until well browned (about 40 - 50 minutes). Yields 1 large or 2 small loaves.
Daniel Rogov is the restaurant and wine critic for the daily newspaper Ha'aretz. He is also the senior writer for Wine and Gourmet Magazine and contributes culinary and wine articles to newspapers in Europe and the United States.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry and Rogov's Ramblings. Reprinted with permission.