Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves
  • 3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees F.)
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¹/³ cup sugar
  • 1 egg (graded large)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg (graded small)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)
Into a large bowl, measure 2 cups of the flour. Set aside. Into a blender jar, pour the water, yeast, and remaining cup of flour. Cover and blend at low speed (whip). Uncover and continue blending while adding the oil, sugar, large egg, and salt. Blend until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the batter over the reserved flour. Mix thoroughly with a spoon until a ball of dough forms. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover and let rise in a warm draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in bulk. Stir down.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Shape the dough into challah, braided or unbraided. To shape into two small braided challahs, divide the dough in half. Divide each part into 3 equal parts. Rool each part into a long coil of even thickness. Pinch together the tops of all 3 pieces. Start to braid by taking the outer right strip and crossing it over the center strip, bringing it to the center. Then take the outer left strip and cross it over the middle strip, bringing it to the center. Repeat the procedure by alternately bringing the right strip to the center and the left to the center until all are braided. Pinch the ends together. Tuck the ends in carefully. Transfer the bread to a greased loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. If you choose to make one large braid challah, use a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan.

For a round challa, shape the dough round with your cupped hands. Place in a greased 9-inch round baking pan. For a round spiral challah, roll the dough into a long coil. Form into a spiral by twisting the dough 'round and 'round into a spiral that thins toward the top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Beat the remaining egg with the tablespoon of water just to blend. Brush the top of the breads with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the breads are well browned and sound hollow when tapped with a knife handle or spoon. Remove to racks to cool.

Alternate method:

Into a large bowl of an electric mixer, measure 2 cups of the flour. Prepare the other mixture as above and pour this over the flour in the mixer bowl. Using a dough hook, beat on low speed until the dough clings to the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes. Continue to knead for an additional 3 minutes. Cover the bowl and set in a warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk. Continue as above.

Note: When baking challah, grease the pan with solid vegetable shortening rather than oil. Oil has a tendency to be absorbed into the bread dough whereas a solid vegetable shortening does not.  Also, the pans will be easier to clean.