Once upon a time, a missionary named Judy lived in the Middle East. There, she learned a recipe for a braided, slightly sweet Jewish bread called challah. The eggs make it creamy but light and the striking presentation looks perfect for a celebration. Judy brought the recipe back to America and taught it to her pastor’s wife, Shelley. Shelley taught it to her friend Barb, who taught it to my mother, who taught it to me.
Challah is therapeutic and delicious. This is the recipe the way it has been passed down to me, giving sustenance and joy for generations:
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. salt
2 cups warm water
5 tsp. yeast
7 + cups of flour
1 egg with 1 tsp. sugar
1. Add oil, sugar, salt, warm water and yeast together. Wait for yeast to bubble. Add eggs. Stir in flour. Dough should pliable and a little bit sticky.
2. Knead dough for 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl. Cover bowl with warm wet towel and let rise for an hour and a half, or until dough has doubled in size.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Divide dough into 4 equal parts, to make 4 loaves. Separate each part into 3 sections and roll each section into a long dough rope. Braid the dough together, like you would braid hair. Let loaves rise for 15 minutes. Mix 1 egg and 1 tsp. sugar, and brush mixture on the 4 loaves.
4. Place the loaves on 2 greased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, place top cookie on bottom rack and bottom on top for even browning. Bake another 10 minutes or so, until the loaves are golden.
The recipe makes four loaves, which taste their best warm out of the oven. In my family, we think this bread is so good it doesn’t need butter. If you have leftovers, it makes delicious French toast in the morning.
Merry Christmas, and may the Bread of Life sustain you.