I was looking for a new recipe to use for this year's Rosh Hashanah challah, and in Joan Nathan's Jewish Holiday Cookbook I found a recipe for "Four Hundred Year Old Challah." What made this even more special is that Ms. Nathan obtained this recipe from my Great Aunt! So it is therefore the recipe that has been in Babushka's family for over Four Hundred Years!
And here it is:
1 5-lb bag of bread flour (King Arthur)
1/2 c. light olive oil
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. honey
1 oz. (4 envelopes) yeast
2 Tbsp. salt
1/4 tsp. crushed saffron
4 c. warm water
Egg for loaf wash
Sesame or poppy seeds
In order to make this volume of dough using a conventional mixer, you have to divide the recipe in half and make two batches, a 6-qt. Kitchen Aid stand mixer can not handle more than 2 lbs. of flour at a time. However, if you have a mixer with a large capacity, like an Ankarsrum Assistent, go for it!
In one bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar.
In another bowl, combine the eggs, honey and oil. Sprinkle the yeast on top and wait for it to foam.
In 4 cups of warm water, add the crushed saffron and wait for the water to turn a beautiful golden color.
In the mixer, add the water to the flour. Then slowly add in the egg mixture. Knead with the dough hook for 10 minutes.
Place the dough into a large bowl that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Cover and let the dough rise for 2 hours.
Fold the dough and let rise for 2 more hours.
Place the dough onto a floured bread board and divide into pieces for loaves. Form into balls and let rest for 10 minutes. This recipe makes 6 large challahs, or 8 medium, or 16 small or 20 little rolls (or any combination)
Form the dough into braided loaves. Cover and proof for 1 hour. Preheat your oven to 375.
Brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until loaves are beautiful golden brown.
Shanah tovah & Chag sameach!