Growing up in a Jewish household was interesting. Although my dad was not a practicing Jew at the time the traditions and foods were always part of our life for as long as I can remember. Maybe the most memorable was challah. This braided egg bread is packed full of flavor.
We seemed to always have challah or at least often enough that I remember it being “normal”. It started mainly as a Christmas morning tradition. Every year we would sit around the table first thing in the morning on Christmas Day. Say what we were thankful for and have communion as a family. Then as we started observing the sabbath challah became more frequent.
Part of the tradition of making challah is praying for your family as you kneed the bread. Something about folding your love for your family into this sacred bread. One of the strongest memories I have of challah when I was younger was one of the first times I remember my dad making it. We were all in another room and you heard this loud THUD! THUD! THUD! We all joked we wondered what on earth he was praying for.
Once I moved out and was on my own challah become something that was a treat if I happened to be home when one of my parents happened to be making it. It wasn’t until I purchased Good to the Grain that I began making challah myself. What drew my attention to this particular recipe is that it uses three kinds of flour. (Any Messianic Jew would probably marvel at the symbolism of that in and of itself.) The three flours were Kamut, Millet, and All-purpose.
Kamut and millet are what give this particular challah it’s color and unique flavor. Both millet and kamut are ancient grains, dating back to that time of the pharos at least. The two enhance the creamy buttery flavor of this recipe. Knowing that these grains date back to the biblical era, as well as having milk and honey in it, just made this seem like the perfect layered meaning recipe for such an important traditional food.
This bread goes together fairly quickly and easily if you don’t count all the time it needs for it’s rising. There’s more waiting than anything. Finishing this bread is where the skill comes in. Growing up most of the challah was 3-braid. This is a gorgeous technique but I wanted to try some of the more elaborate so I went straight for the 6-braid. It can get a little confusing so you just want to make sure you either develop a system or have little distraction. Then topping it can be really anything you want from poppy seeds to sesame seeds.
I think what I love most about challah now is French Toast. Nothing beats challah for the prefect french toast. It holds up well to the long soak in the dairy and egg mixture and when fried it gets a nice crust yet maintaining a chewy center.
(This recipe was modified from the original to make a double batch in a 7 quart Kitchen aid mixer. If you’re using a standard mixer simply cut this recipe in half to make one loaf.)
- 4 ½ teaspoons Active-dry yeast
- 2 Cups Whole Milk, warmed
- 42 grams Honey
- 240 grams Kamut Flour
- 60 grams Millet Four
- 800 grams All-purpose Flour
- 40 grams Salt
- 8 ounces Unsalted Butter
- 6 Jumbo Eggs, room temp
- 2 tablespoons Poppy Seeds or Sesame Seeds
For the Egg Wash you’ll need 1 additional egg.
In the bowl of a large mixer add the yeast. Heat the milk in a glass measuring cup in the microwave for 1 minute. Pour over yeast. Whisk together to combine. Add honey, Kamut, and Millet. Whisk together to make a smooth thick paste like substance. Add all the flour and salt. Let sit for 30 minutes. The yeast mixture will push up through the all-purpose flour as it proofs. This is what you want.
While the yeast is proofing. Warm refrigerated eggs in a bowl of hot water to bring to room temp. (I usually will let me eggs sit out over night to naturally come to room temperature.)
After 30 minutes add the eggs to the sponge. Put the bowl onto the mixer and attach a dough hook to combine. Add flour as needed to form a solid mass.
Once the dough is cohesive add butter about 1 tablespoon at a time. After all the butter is added let it knead for another minute or two. Then turn out on a well floured surface and knead until you get a nice smooth ball. Place in greased bowl. Let rise for 2 hours. Punch down and let rise for another hour.
Split dough into 12 equal masses. Roll into 12 ropes, 18-24 inches long. Connect 6 ropes at one end. Fan out ropes. I could explain the step by step of how to do the braid but this video by Maya Sprague is how I learned and I think it will teach you just as easily, check it out here.
Once the braid is complete cover and let rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Make egg wash and brush loafs. Sprinkle the loafs with the seeds.
Bake loaves one at a time for 3o minutes. (Best part is even if your Challah gets a mind of it’s own and bulges or swells it has no impact on the final product. If used for Jewish services the tradition is to tear it and if used for french toast once it’s sliced no one will be the wiser.)