- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1/4 cups boiling water
- 1 package (about 2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- About 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 egg beaten lightly with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
- About 1 teaspoon poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)
Steep the raisins in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove the raisins (they can be disgarded or reserved) and reserve the water for the dough.
Combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the warm water in a bowl. Let stand until the mixture begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.
Combine the yeast mixture, the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, oil, eggs, salt, the reserved raisin soaking waters, raisins (if using), and half of the flour in the bowl of a standing electric mixer and beat until fully combined. Slowly add the remaining flour, beating to create a soft, sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until double in volume, about 2 hours.
Grease a large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and form it into a square about 9 inches diameter. Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a pastry brush, brush the challah with the egg wash. If desired, sprinkle the top with the poppy or sesame seeds. Bake until well browned, abut 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature before cutting.
Credit: Jewish Food: The World at Table by Matthew Goodman