Makes: 1 large loaf
This recipe is from Samuel Oppenheim, a former history professor at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock and former longtime Modesto resident. He now lives in Massachusetts. Writes Oppenheim in an e-mail: "The recipe we have used for over 40 years is that of my aunt, who gave it to us after our marriage in 1965. Alyne (his wife) made the challahs for over 35 years. However, when I semiretired, I took over the challah-making chores. My aunt's recipe was the "traditional one." As time went on, I began to experiment. The one that most people like is the raisin-cinnamon challah, although, as the recipe states at the bottom, I've also made asiago/garlic challah, sun-dried tomato challah, etc. It's a delicious challah."
1 teaspoon salt
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¼ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for mixing with yeast
ª cup shortening (I use canola oil.)
¾ cup scalded water
1 package yeast (2½ teaspoons)
2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk for brushing on crust
Approximately 3½ cups flour (bread flour is best)
7 drops yellow food color, optional
Into large bowl, measure 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ cup sugar.
Melt shortening in scalded water and pour over dry mixture in the large bowl, letting cool until lukewarm.
Meanwhile, mix 2 eggs. In a separate cup, combine yeast with 1 tablespoon sugar (above and beyond the ¼ cup sugar used earlier) and 1 tablespoon warm water. Then add eggs, yeast and food coloring into large bowl with shortening, etc.
Gradually add flour, about ½ cup at a time.
On a floured board or pastry sheet, knead for about 10 minutes. (I use the mixer with the dough hook for about 12 minutes; it makes things much easier.)
Place dough in a large, slightly greased bowl and let rise in a draft-free place for about 45 minutes. Punch down; knead again for a few minutes and let rise for another 45 minutes.
Braid it or put in a greased loaf pan. Let rise until double in size. (I let it go about another 45 minutes.)
Mix egg yolk (from the third egg) and 1 tablespoon water and brush over bread. (Poppy or sesame seed may be sprinkled over glaze before baking, if you wish.)
Bake in 400-degree preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and place upside down on a dish towel. Let cool before serving or putting away.
For cinnamon-raisin challah, add 1 cup raisins and 3 tablespoons cinnamon when adding flour. All other directions the same, except I don't put any poppy or sesame seeds on a cinnamon-raisin challah. (This is most people's favorite variation.)
Cheddar cheese challah. Add 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese when adding flour. All other directions the same.
Asiago cheese challah. Again, add at least 8 ounces cheese, shredded, when mixing the dough into the bowl with shortening. All other directions are the same.
Garlic. You can put in a tablespoon or two of garlic powder, either in the "regular" or the cheese challahs. All other directions are the same.