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Mega Challah (D/P, TNT)
Source: Sissy Price, a fellow-traveller on Elder Hostel's first "Jewish Portugal and Spain" program
Yield: One very large bread or 6 loaves side by side

4 packages dry or cake yeast
2 cups lukewarm water (approximately 110°F)
4 tbsp. sugar
2 cups milk
6 tbsp. butter or pareve margarine
5 pounds flour, plus some extra available for kneading as required
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. salt
8 eggs (about 1-2/3 cups)
1 cup vegetable oil

Proof the yeast: Mix yeast, water, and 4 tablespoons sugar and let stand until it bubbles up.

Heat milk and butter until butter melts (just at simmer point) and then cool to lukewarm; cooling can take a while.

Keep aside about a cup of flour to add after mixing the other ingredients. You will probably need it all while it is still in the bowl, and additional flour as well when you start to knead. (I added all purpose flour in all cases.)

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add eggs, 2 at a time. Then add all the other ingredients. (The order is not critical.)

Mix with a spoon until it gets too heavy, then start mixing and kneading with your hands.* Knead until elastic. Let rise in greased bowl until double in bulk and a hole punched with a finger doesn't fill in (about 1-1/2 hours). Punch down and let rise again (about 45 minutes). Then shape, rise, and bake in a greased floured pan. (I used cooking spray and parchment paper.)

Glaze with an egg yolk wash and topping (sesame, poppy seed, etc.) as desired.

Poster's Notes:
I used 1 cup strong potato water and 1 cup plain water instead of milk for the pareve version.

Sissy usually makes 6 big round balls and places them (3 on a side) in a rectangular roasting pan and bakes for 1-1/2 hours. She puts them into the oven at 375°F and immediately turns down the heat to 325°F. ** This comes out nicely as six loaves for freezing but looks spectacular as a single very large loaf for entertaining. It braids well and can be made in any shape.

*I let the dough rest about 5 minutes before even starting to knead by hand. I kneaded 10 to 12 minutes before each of the first two risings, letting the dough (and myself) rest for 2 to 3 minutes in the middle of the heavy kneading. The dough handles much better that way.

If you put your bowl and/or kneading board at a level somewhere near the top of your legs (while standing), you can knead more comfortably and powerfully. Most counters are too high, especially for this quantity. I cover my dining table with an old sheet and work there.

** The final version of my extra large braided challah took a little over two hours at 350°F to reach 190°F as checked near the center with a probe thermometer. The glaze browned quickly and needed tenting with foil. The original version (in the flat pan) seemed to be finished in just over an hour based on using the probe in several individual loaves. Since it normally took longer, I let it sit in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes with the heat turned off.

Posted by Miryam Bachrach

Nutritional Info Per Serving: N/A