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A passed down family recipe for holiday loaves becomes irresistible braided challah rolls – Tricks and Tips

Recipe: A passed down family recipe for holiday loaves becomes irresistible braided challah rolls

Makes 24

This recipe comes from my culinary school classmate and friend, Erica Miner, whom I met 20 years ago in Chicago when we were both young greenhorns. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Miner and her husband, Robin, now own The Terrace Restaurant in St. John, in the US Virgin Islands. Like many good recipes, this one for challah was passed down from her mom, Lia Farber, a talented baker in her own right, who once owned a biscotti business. Farber got the recipe from a friend (who hand wrote it on Lillian Vernon note paper). It was originally made to yield two large loaves and was a favorite in their synagogue. The dough is easily modified to make 24 rolls, and though shaping the mini braids is the trickiest part, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. When the dough is mixed (this recipe uses a stand mixer with a dough hook), let it double in size, punch it down, and rest for 10 minutes. Divide it into even-sized pieces, and start shaping. The key to shiny challah is to double-glaze with egg. The first coat goes on after shaping (they’re not covered at this point). Then, right before popping them into the oven, gently brush a second coat onto the puffy rolls, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. They’ll be hard to resist while you wait for Rosh Hashanah guests to arrive, but no one will notice a missing roll or two.

Vegetable or canola oil (for the bowl)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
¾ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
cups warm water
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
3 eggs
8 cups flour
Extra flour (for sprinkling)
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds (for sprinkling)

1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly oil a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl (not the oiled one), combine the yeast, the 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1/4 cup of the warm water. Stir well, and let stand for 10 minutes or until frothy.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 3/4 cup sugar, salt, vegetable or canola oil, and the remaining 2 cups warm water. Mix at medium speed until the sugar dissolves.

4. Lightly beat 2 of the eggs. Add the 2 eggs and the yeast mixture to the mixing bowl and beat to blend them.

5. Incorporate the flour 1 cup at a time. Mix well on medium speed until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the bowl. If it is too much for your mixer, transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and finish kneading by hand. With either method, continue kneading by hand until the surface is smooth and no longer sticky.

6. Form a large, tight ball, and transfer it to the oiled bowl. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 90 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.

7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter. Punch down lightly, cover loosely, and rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

8. Divide the dough into 24 pieces. If you’re using a kitchen scale, each will be 3 ounces. Cover them loosely with a towel. Begin by rolling one piece of the dough into a 12-inch rope. Cross one end over the other, leaving an open loop at the top and 2 tails at the bottom (it looks like an awareness ribbon). Take the tail on the bottom and pull it over the top one, tucking in the end. Pull the top tail under the roll and pinch the end tightly with the end of the other tail. Place the roll on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

9. Beat the remaining 1 egg lightly. With a pastry brush, gently brush each roll with egg. Let the rolls rise in a warm place for 40 minutes, or until they double in size.

10. Set the oven at 375 degrees.

11. Lightly brush the rolls again with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

12. Transfer the baking sheets to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 15 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 190 degrees. (Total baking time is 25 minutes.)

13. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick. Adapted from Lia Farber and Erica Miner

Makes 24

This recipe comes from my culinary school classmate and friend, Erica Miner, whom I met 20 years ago in Chicago when we were both young greenhorns. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Miner and her husband, Robin, now own The Terrace Restaurant in St. John, in the US Virgin Islands. Like many good recipes, this one for challah was passed down from her mom, Lia Farber, a talented baker in her own right, who once owned a biscotti business. Farber got the recipe from a friend (who hand wrote it on Lillian Vernon note paper). It was originally made to yield two large loaves and was a favorite in their synagogue. The dough is easily modified to make 24 rolls, and though shaping the mini braids is the trickiest part, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. When the dough is mixed (this recipe uses a stand mixer with a dough hook), let it double in size, punch it down, and rest for 10 minutes. Divide it into even-sized pieces, and start shaping. The key to shiny challah is to double-glaze with egg. The first coat goes on after shaping (they’re not covered at this point). Then, right before popping them into the oven, gently brush a second coat onto the puffy rolls, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. They’ll be hard to resist while you wait for Rosh Hashanah guests to arrive, but no one will notice a missing roll or two.

Vegetable or canola oil (for the bowl)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
¾ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
cups warm water
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
3 eggs
8 cups flour
Extra flour (for sprinkling)
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds (for sprinkling)

1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly oil a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl (not the oiled one), combine the yeast, the 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1/4 cup of the warm water. Stir well, and let stand for 10 minutes or until frothy.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 3/4 cup sugar, salt, vegetable or canola oil, and the remaining 2 cups warm water. Mix at medium speed until the sugar dissolves.

4. Lightly beat 2 of the eggs. Add the 2 eggs and the yeast mixture to the mixing bowl and beat to blend them.

5. Incorporate the flour 1 cup at a time. Mix well on medium speed until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the bowl. If it is too much for your mixer, transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and finish kneading by hand. With either method, continue kneading by hand until the surface is smooth and no longer sticky.

6. Form a large, tight ball, and transfer it to the oiled bowl. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 90 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.

7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter. Punch down lightly, cover loosely, and rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

8. Divide the dough into 24 pieces. If you’re using a kitchen scale, each will be 3 ounces. Cover them loosely with a towel. Begin by rolling one piece of the dough into a 12-inch rope. Cross one end over the other, leaving an open loop at the top and 2 tails at the bottom (it looks like an awareness ribbon). Take the tail on the bottom and pull it over the top one, tucking in the end. Pull the top tail under the roll and pinch the end tightly with the end of the other tail. Place the roll on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

9. Beat the remaining 1 egg lightly. With a pastry brush, gently brush each roll with egg. Let the rolls rise in a warm place for 40 minutes, or until they double in size.

10. Set the oven at 375 degrees.

11. Lightly brush the rolls again with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

12. Transfer the baking sheets to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 15 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 190 degrees. (Total baking time is 25 minutes.)

13. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container.Karoline Boehm Goodnick. Adapted from Lia Farber and Erica Miner