Updated: May 10
When we first moved to Dubai, I understood that in order have fresh challah each week, I would have to make it. Gone were the days of nipping off to the local kosher bakery to pick up a couple of spongy, soft loaves. Now it was up to me! At first, I avoided this task by having people bring me bags of ready-made challah which I would freeze. But as time went by, I dropped my inhibitions and started making my own.
This is my challah recipe, developed after many a Friday. The secret - in my view - is to make a moist and sticky dough and not to over knead it.
This recipe makes 2 loaves.
Ingredients 5 cups all purpose flour 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 heaped tablespoon dry yeast 1/2 cup oil 1 cup water 2 eggs
Method Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl Activate the yeast by placing a large mug in the following order: 1 teaspoon sugar, the yeast and fill it up with tepid water. Leave for 10 minutes, When the yeast has frothed and bubbled, add it to the flour mixture. Leave it for a few more minutes until the egg mixture is ready. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and oil and 1/2 cup of water.
Then add it to the flour and yeast mix. Using your hands, swirl the mixture around until it binds into a dough. Add a bit more flour to your hands to help it bind (not too much). For a light dough, limit the amount of flour. Don’t worry if it’s still a little sticky. Once the dough has formed, knead it for about a minute and then place it back in the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave it to rise in a warm kitchen for about 3-4 hours. When it has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl. At this point, preheat the oven at 175 degrees centigrade. Divide the dough into two portions. Divide each portion into a further 3 balls and roll out to equal length. Plait each of the three strands of dough so that you have two braided loaves. Brush with oil. Sprinkle with zaatar or sesame seeds. Place on a greased baking tray and leave for another 15-20 minutes until you can see the dough growing again. Then bake until golden brown.
There are many variations you can make. Instead of sugar, use date syrup. To add colour and some Middle Eastern flavor, soak a few saffron strands and add it to the fixture. The color will be a beautiful amber color, almost like Dubai gold!