Enjoy a plain or cinnamon-raisin version of challah bread with this recipe from Diana Margaritis of Diane's Bakery and Panini Cafe.
For the challah:
- 2 tablespoons active-dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
- 6 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons sugar
- 2/3 cup boiling water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted margarine, plus more for bowl and pans
- 2 tablespoons soy oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons buckwheat honey
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup wheat germ
- 1 large egg yolk
For the cinnamon-raisin challah (optional):
- 1 cup currants
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 large egg white
In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and 4 teaspoons sugar; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together boiling water, margarine, soy oil, salt, honey, and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar until mixture becomes lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add yeast mixture and mix until well combined. Add 5 cups flour and wheat germ; mix until combined. Continue adding enough of the remaining cup of flour until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto work surface; knead until smooth, 8 to 10 minutes, dusting work surface lightly with flour if dough begins to stick.
Coat the interior of a large bowl with margarine; transfer dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, coat the interior of two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans with margarine; set aside.
Turn dough out onto work surface and divide in half. Working with one half at a time, divide into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch long rope. Braid ropes and transfer to one of the prepared pans, fitting into circle. Repeat process with remaining half or use remaining half to make a Cinnamon-Raisin Challah loaf (see next step).
Place currants in medium bowl; add enough boiling water to cover, and set aside. Form remaining piece of dough into a 12-by-18-inch rectangle. Brush with egg. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon and sugar; sprinkle over dough. Drain currants and sprinkle over cinnamon-sugar mixture; cover with wax paper. Using a rolling pin, gently press cinnamon-sugar mixture and currants into dough. Remove wax paper and roll dough lengthwise, like a jelly roll. Shape roll into a round and transfer to remaining prepared pan. Using clean kitchen scissors, snip six 3/4-inch deep incisions around top of roll.
Let stand until dough is puffed and has risen above the edges of the pans, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water for challah or remaining tablespoon sugar and egg white for the cinnamon-raisin challah. Brush tops of loaves with egg mixture. Transfer to oven and bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes.