For the Jewish New Year it’s traditional to serve a round sweet Challah. It’s round to symbolize the renewal of the new year, and sweet to wish everyone at the table a wonderfully sweet year ahead. once, I had an incredible Challah that had a streusel topping on top. It was fantastic! The one problem was that I had no idea where it was from. I was already making challahs every Friday for Shabbat, and decided to take on the seemingly insurmountable project of recreating that delicious sweet bread.
I googled and searched and I couldn’t find a recipe for a Challah with a streusel topping anywhere. So, I decided to create my own. It took a lot of trial and error of different Challah recipes from the Internet, attempts to braid, swirl, and otherwise shape my dough, and failures with streusels (too buttery, too dry, too sweet). But, after all those attempts, I fine-tuned it, and I get requests for Challahs every September.
I have discovered that making the round challah in a springform pan is the most reliable. I had problems with a making a ‘snake’ of dough and twirling it because for some reason the centre of the bread didn’t cook, which was gross and pretty embarrassing to serve. I have never attempted a round braided loaf because, frankly, my method is really easy and always works out. To tell you the truth, nobody cares about what the Challah looks like. All they’re interested in is how fast I can slice it.
I use a breadmaker, but this recipe has methods for both. I’ve tried probably ten different methods and one from Diana’s Desserts is the best and most reliable. Note that this cake is a bit more crumbly and dense than regular Challah. I usually make two loaves, one with raisins and one without. If you need to make them in advance, the bread freezes well, but give at least six hours for defrosting.
Place ingredients in breadmaker in this order:
3/4 cup of warm water
1/8 cup good quality honey
1/6 cup (or 1/2 of 1/3 cup) sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter (and a little more for good measure)
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tsp salt
4-4/12 cups unbleached white flour (or whole wheat baking flour if your family will allow. Mine are purists. They do no.)
3 teaspoons or 1 mounted tbsp of bread machine yeast
Pinch of saffron (optional)
Two handfulls of raisins (I mix a few kinds and you can plump them or not. I don’t.)
Once the dough is ready for shaping, (I take it out of the breadmaker and let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Even dough gets tired) use a cutter to cut it into six or seven evenly-sized balls. Place them in a springform pan lined with a parchment circle.
Place a tea towel on top of the pan, and let rise in a dark, dry place for about one hour. In the meantime, make up the streusel topping which is:
about 1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup total of white and brown sugar
1/4-1/2 very cold butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp of cinnamon
Using a pastry blender, two knives, or the best method, your hands, blend the ingredients until they’re like a crumbly bowl of yummy.
Once the dough has tripled in size (it should be near the top of the springform pan), brush it with an egg wash (one scramble egg with a little water), and sprinkle liberally with the streusel topping.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree (Canadian) oven for about 1 hr. It will be ready when you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow.
Let cool and hide from your family. To serve, open the springform and you’ll be able to pull it right off the base by tugging on what I call a miracle, namely my best friend parchment paper.
(More pictures to come as the day goes along! The bread is just rising right now.)