According to the Torah, when ancient Israelites travelled for 40 years in the desert, they were fed manna, or ‘bread from heaven’, which rained down each day. On Shabbat (Saturday) no manna came, and so a double portion was granted on the Friday instead. Hence, meals during Shabbat begin with a blessing over two loaves of challah.
- 1.2 kg (8 cups) plain flour, plus extra, to dust
- 2½ x 7 g sachets dried yeast
- 170 g (¾ cup) caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 125 ml (½ cup) vegetable oil, plus extra, to grease
- 2 tsp poppy or sesame seeds
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Place 500 g (3 cups) flour in a large bowl. Make a large well in the centre and add 560 ml (2¼ cups) warm water, yeast and 110 g (½ cup) sugar, stirring until combined. Set aside for 15 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Add 2 tbsp salt and remaining 55 g (¼ cup) sugar to the well and mix until just combined. Set aside for another 10 minutes or until mixture bubbles again.
Whisk together 2 eggs and oil, and stir into yeast mixture. Gradually draw in flour until combined, then gradually add 650 g (4 cups) flour to form a soft and sticky dough. Knead on a lightly floured work surface for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and slightly sticky. If too sticky, gradually add as much of the remaining 50 g flour as needed. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a clean, damp tea towel. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 2½ hours or until dough doubles in size.
Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. Punch down dough, turn out onto a clean work surface and divide into 6, then shape pieces into 30 cm logs and lay 3 logs, side by side, on each tray. Pinch ends together and fold under. Braid logs, then pinch ends together and fold under. Repeat with remaining 3 logs. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 40 minutes or until dough almost doubles in size.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Whisk remaining egg and brush over loaves. Sprinkle over seeds and bake, swapping trays halfway, for 45 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack before serving.
Photography by Alan Benson.
As seen in Feast magazine, November 2011, Issue 3.