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Round Challah for Rosh Hashanah

Looking for something fun to do to make your High Holy Days meals extra special? Why not bake some delicious round challah?

The following recipe is lightly adapted from a recipe by BJ member Katja Goldman, from the cookbook, The Community Table, Recipes And Stories From The Jewish Community Center In Manhattan & Beyond. This recipe makes two large loaves.

2 cups warm water
2 packages dry yeast (4 ½ teaspoons)
2 teaspoons plus 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
5 large eggs
6 to 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed, plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup grapeseed or safflower oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
1 cup bread flour (not totally necessary if you don’t have it, but good)
Toppings (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc) or chocolate chips for incorporating into the dough

1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons honey (optional)

1. To make the bread, place the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast and one teaspoon of sugar over the water. Let stand until foamy, which will take about 10 minutes (this is called proofing, or activating the yeast).

2. Add the honey, eggs, one cup of all-purpose flour, and the remaining sugar to the yeast. Beat hard with a bread whisk or stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth.

3. Add the salt and oil and continue to whisk or stir until the oil is incorporated. Stir in bread flour (if you have, otherwise use more all purpose). Gradually add remaining all-purpose flour, starting one cup at a time. When you can no longer stir in the bowl, transfer to a lightly-floured surface and continue to gradually add flour, kneading gently until the dough is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky. (The flour amount may vary depending on the age of the flour, the humidity, and the size of your eggs.) Form the dough into a ball.

4. Oil a large bowl and add the dough, turning it once to coat it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place it in a warm, draft-free spot, such as in an oven that’s turned off. Allow the dough to double in bulk for one to two hours (you can also put the dough in the fridge overnight if you allow it to come to room temp before braiding and baking). Poke the dough with two fingers. If the indentations remain, the dough has adequately risen. If the indentation fills in, cover the dough and allow it to rise 15 to 30 more minutes.

5. When the dough has doubled, transfer it to a lightly-floured work surface and deflate the dough by pushing down on it with the heels of your palms three or four times (called
punching down the dough). If the dough feels sticky or seems too soft, knead in more flour. Divide the dough into two portions for the two loaves. To make round challah loaves, roll out each piece into one long roll. Then coil each piece in a spiral pattern, resulting in two round spiraled challah loaves.

6. Transfer each loaf to a parchment-covered baking sheet. Allow the shaped dough to rise in a warm place until an indentation remains when the dough is poked lightly with a finger. This will take roughly 30 to 40 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

8. To make the glaze, beat the egg in a small bowl with the water and honey, if using.

9. Bake the challot until they sound hollow when tapped (or to an internal temperature of 195 to 199 degrees F). This will take 25-45 minutes depending on the size of your challahs. Just before they are done (at 190 to 193 degrees F), remove them from the oven and brush with the glaze. Return the loaves to the oven and bake until golden brown, which will take roughly
five to 10 minutes. Brush again with the glaze, sprinkle with the seeds, if using, and return them to the oven until they look shiny and the glaze looks cooked, which will take roughly two minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on racks.