Baking with kids can be a huge pain, especially when it comes to bread. While there is something absurdly fun about cleaning up sticky dough and flour from tiny hands and faces, a kid-friendly Rosh Hashanah challah recipe usually isn't in the cards. Challah is just too difficult to get the little ones involved. It requires an intense amount of kneading and braiding, and there's so much sugar and fat in the dough that it is prone to being gluey and making a mess. But I think I've finally cracked the code and found a challah for Rosh Hashanah that's so easy, your kids can help.
That's because Rosh Hashanah challahs don't need to be braided like Shabbos challahs do. They are made round as a representation of the fact that the year is round, and therefore, they are much simpler to put together. They are also frequently baked as centerpieces, designed to be hollowed out, so if the bread the kids have helped to make has a crust that gets too tough, or if they're a little overproofed, it's no big deal. It becomes art. (That you later use to make the most delicious bread pudding.)
The key is to have fun with it. Let your kids make the mess, knead the dough, and help measure the ingredients. Not only is baking a great skill to have, those moments together are precious. And what better way is there to end one year and begin another?
I have been perfecting this recipe over the past 15 years, and it is my absolute favorite. It's parve, so it can be eaten with either milk or meat holidays, and it can stand a bit of overproofing without losing its texture. This recipe makes two large loaves, or one centerpiece (pictured). Personally, I prefer to bake holiday challah in springform pans for easy removal. Or, you could make freeform spirals on a baking stone or cookie sheet.
Please read through the entire recipe before you begin. You'll note that I give exact weights for the small measurements, but also include traditional measurements. If you're going to bake with any regularity, I do suggest that you get a good, digital scale. Weights, specifically metric weights, are so much simpler and more accurate. Also, you'll need a stabby meat thermometer. (Technical term, obviously.) It will help you determine the doneness of the loaves.
- 8+ cups flour (Plus more more the bench)
- 3/4 cup plain, sweetened almond milk, 110ºF (If you use cow, rice, coconut, hemp, or soy, it will alter the texture and flavor. Coconut is not recommended.)
- 3/4 cup water, 110ºF
- 12 grams active dry yeast (Or 1 and 3/4 packet)
- 1/2 cup melted and cooled parve margarine (Earth Balance) or vegetable oil like canola or grapeseed. (I like margarine better. Please, for the love of the holiday, don't use olive or coconut oil. You'll also need more for the proofing bowl and the baking implement)
- 3 eggs plus 2 yolks (Plus one egg for egg wash)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup honey (Mild, like clover or wildflower, no buckwheat or creamed)
- 15 grams kosher salt (Just over a tablespoon)
- 1 cup raisins or 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup dried currants (or any other dried, round fruit)
In a freaking huge bowl (or extra large stand mixer bowl), combine almond milk, water, and yeast and let sit for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate. Do not rush the process.
Wait until the yeast blooms. f your yeast doesn't bubble up and bloom, it's dead. Start over. Nothing will work if the yeast isn't good. If you have used unsweetened almond milk for some reason (side eye), add a tablespoon of sugar or honey to the yeast mixture. Otherwise, it still won't bloom. You need to feed the little yeast babies to make them grow. If you use regular milk from a cow, it should be fine without the sugar.
Once the yeast is fluffy, slowly add in the eggs and yolks one at a time, along with the fat. Add a little egg, then a little fat, until it's all happy and combined. Add in honey, sugar, and salt.
Slowly, and I mean slowly, add the flour, one cup at a time. Alternating with a few tablespoons of raisins. At about cup five, it should really start coming together and beginning to look like dough. If you're using a mixer with a bread hook, do make sure it's on the lowest setting, unless you love getting sprayed with flour. When you've added all eight cups, if it is still really sticky, you can add a few tablespoons of flour at a time until it's workable.
Turn the dough onto a floured counter or table, or leave it in the mixer and knead it for 10 to 12 minutes. (This is the kids' favorite part.) After that, lightly flour the top and cover it with a clean tea towel. Come back in 15 minutes and knead it for another five minutes or until it is spongy and smooth. Place it in another clean, huge bowl that's been greased, dust the top with flour, and cover with tea towel. Let rise for 1.5 hours.
Then, preheat the oven to 375ºF and begin to form the dough. For Rosh Hashanah, it's simple. Cut the dough in half, roll each into a 4-inch thick, 18+ inch long rope, and then roll into a greased springform pan or onto a cookie sheet. Mix the extra egg with a few tablespoons of water and brush the tops of the bread. Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes for two loaves, or until it sounds hollow when tapped, and the center reaches 195ºF.
If you let your kids form it, it's not going to be picture perfect, but it will be delicious and perfect to them, which is what holidays are all about.