Saturday, 11 December 2010

Recipe 37 - Challah Bread (Egg Twist)

I graduated from the University of Chicago. Every winter the Alumni Association mails a holiday card that is one of the first pieces of holiday correspondence I receive. The card used to feature a wintery picture of campus and a do-good quote, but for the past two years the cards have shown a recipe contributed by someone on campus. Weird, but I'll take it.

About a week ago I received this year's card, which featured this cheesecake recipe. I thought we could make it this weekend but then I saw that you have to let it rest for at least a day before eating it. That won't do! It's our custom to make a recipe and try a bite before saying goodbye. But the card pointed me to a website with more recipes and the best thing I could find to make was Challah Bread (Egg Twist). The recipe was contributed by one of my favorite math professors, Robert Fefferman. I loved this guy! During the first semester of my second year of college, I took his class and sat through a quarter of too-difficult Analysis in Rn just so I could experience his teaching. (The next quarter I dropped down into an easier section taught by someone else!) Every day Professor Fefferman would walk into the room and elegantly sweep off his long coat and launch into an animated lecture. I remember him as a smiling, nice man and a very effective teacher. It's not his fault that I don't remember Analysis, but perhaps he will teach me something new with this recipe...

Happy Holidays from the Physical Sciences Division
Challah Bread (Egg Twist)
from Bob and Joan Fefferman

Robert Fefferman is dean of the Physical Sciences Division and Max Mason distinguished service professor of mathematics. He writes, "We hope that everyone enjoys this; it has been our signature holiday treat for the family for 28 years!"

Preparation time: Several hours from start to finish, including inactive time waiting for the dough to rise and bake.


1 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 package active dry yeast
About 3 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp salad oil (I use olive oil)
3/4 cup water
3 eggs
Poppy or sesame seeds for the top of bread


In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast, and 1 cup of the flour. In a saucepan, heat oil and 3/4 cup water until very warm (we heat to 125 degrees). With a mixer set at low speed, beat liquid into dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes.

Reserve 1 egg yolk.

Add one egg white, 2 eggs, and 1 cup flour to the mixture; beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Stir in 1 1/4 cup of the flour. On a floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in about 1/4 cup more of the flour.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning dough to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough; turn onto a floured surface; cover; let rest 15 minutes. Cut 2/3 of the dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each into a 13-inch rope. On a greased, large cookie sheet, place ropes side by side and braid together; pinch ends to seal. Cut remaining dough into 3 pieces. Roll each into a 14-inch rope; braid as above.

Place small braid along center top of large braid; tuck ends under to seal and keep braid in place. Cover with a towel; let rise until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a cup, beat remaining egg yolk; brush onto top of loaf. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake 30 minutes or until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool loaf on a rack. Makes 1 loaf, about 16 servings.

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