I used to teach this recipe to 2 and 3 year olds on Friday mornings! I perfected the curriculum so that I could arrive by 8:30am, make 6 double batches all at once - BY HAND (I don't like making bread in a machine) - let the dough rise and prepped for the kids arrival by 10am. They would pound down the dough, braid it, "paint it" with the egg wash, sprinkle with some sesame or poppy seeds and we'd throw them in the oven. While that was baking, the kids would make a batch of their own to take home and bake on their own.
The parents and kids LOVED this class. I became friends with several of the parents because they kept coming back (Hey Mindy and Audrey!).
This is also an excellent recipe for beginner bakers who want to bring something fun to a potluck or family dinner. You won't ever have leftovers, but if you did, it makes awesome French Toast once it's a little stale and dry.
1 cup warm water (at least 95°F - 110°F)
1 package yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 - 4 C flour *
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon salt (table or kosher salt is fine)
1/3 cup canola oil
Poppy or sesame seeds
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
In a small glass bowl or measuring cup, measure yeast and sugar. Add warm water and stir. Let stand for up to 10 minutes. Once yeast is proofed, it looks like foaming beer.
While yeast is proofing, stir together 2 cups of flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. When yeast is ready, pour it into flour mixture and quickly add eggs and oil and stir well so that it doesn’t become lumpy. Very slowly, add in most of the remaining flour – if needed.*
Place dough on lightly floured surface & knead for 5 minutes, adding a little flour at a time as needed. If dough sticks to the counter, use a bench scraper to clean the surface and lightly flour the board to prevent further sticking – but try to leave dough as sticky as possible to prevent dry bread. When done kneading, the dough will feel silky and smooth.
Put dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a warm, draft free environment till approximately doubled.
Preheats oven to 375°F. Punch down and divide dough in half to make 2 loaves. (If adding raisins, this is where you can knead them in.) Set one half aside. Divide the other half into equal sections (3, 4, 6 depending on type of braid). Roll each section into equal strands, tapering the ends as you roll.
Pinch the strands together at one end and braid, maintaining the same tension as you go, so that the challah will be symmetrical. Pinch the other end as well when done. Repeat for second challah. Place dough on parchment paper or a lightly greased baking sheet.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap as it rises for a second time. You can let it rise for 30 minutes or bake immediately if pressed for time.
Right before baking, brush the bread with beaten egg wash and sprinkle with seeds if desired. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan, and brush with additional egg wash if the braid has separated and could benefit from additional glazing. The bread should take approximately 35+ minutes, until golden brown and challah sounds hollow when bottom is tapped. (Internal temperature approximately 190°F - 195°F) Temperature will vary depending on the size of the bread/rolls. Allow to cool before serving.
*Amount of flour used will vary, depending upon the moisture in the air.
Recipe from Judy Matthews and adapted by Joan Richter and Julie Negrin
Active time: 35 minutes Total time: 2-3 hours depending on if you there is a second rising
Yields: 2 medium loaves