General Note About Making Bread and Taking Challah: When you make bread, you might have to take challah. General guidelines about taking challah: 2.5 lbs. and under you do not take challah; 2.5 lbs.-5 lbs., you take challah but check with your Rabbi if you say a bracha or not; 5 lbs. and up, you take challah with a bracha. If you have a question about how much flour you have used, refer to your bag of flour, or weigh it beforehand.
How to Do Hafrashat Challah (separating the challah): Once you have mixed the dough (or before, so your hands are still non-doughy), cut a piece of foil. When the dough is totally mixed say the bracha: “Baruch Atah Ado-nai Elokeinu Melech haOlam Asher Kidshanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu l’hafrish challah min ha-isah.” (“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to separate challah from the dough.”) and grab some of the dough (roughly a kezayis/1 oz.) with the foil (some people cut the dough with a knife; it's just what works for you, the point is you take the challah...). Some people them say, “Harei zeh challah.” (“This is the challah.” Then flatten it (so it burns better) in the foil, wrap it well, and burn it (you can burn it while the oven is on preheat). When you are burning the challah, burn it alone in the oven. Once it smells burney, it's pretty well done.
You can also use a plastic baggie instead of the foil, wrap the dough twice (ex: 2 baggies) and throw it out. But don't burn the pastic bag, because that will smell (and potentially kill the oven).
First Time Making Challah: Make sure you have lots of time. Making challah properly, from start to finish, takes about 4 hours anyway because you have to mix it and let it rise (and let it rise again if you want) and shape it and let it rise and bake it. It takes time. Don't be time-pressured. But you can do other stuff while the dough is rising.
General Bread Notes: Dough is very dependent on the weather. If it is more humid outside, the dough will be stickier. Don't panic! Just add a little less water or a little more flour or oil. It's ok! If you need your challah to rise and it's not, it might be too cold. You can do a bunch of things to help it rise: 1. Put it in the oven on LOW (turn the oven light on, or turn the oven on to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit/65 degrees Celcius and put the challah in) 2. Put a heat wrap (like the ones you put in the microwave or a hot water bottle pack) around the bowl. Cover/insulate well with towels or a blanket 3. Heat up a cup of water in the microwave for 3 minutes, push the cup to the back of the microwave and put the bowl with the dough inside. Microwave will be warm for about 60-90 minutes-ish. 4. Put the bowl of dough in front of a heater and insulate. Make sure the heater won't catch fire (this works better for steam radiators).
Honey-Egg Challah (aka Tamar's Challah)
Amount you don't need to take challah from (and likely fits in your bread machine):
¼ cup oil
1 oz. honey
¼ cup sugar
1.5 tsp. salt
4 cups bread flour (can use all-purpose and add gluten, but bread flour is better. If you don’t add gluten, the world spontaneously combusts. Not really, but it’s slightly less fluffy, which is fine)
2 tsp. yeast + ½ tsp. sugar + 1 cup warm water
Optional: 4 tsp. gluten
Amount you do need to take Challah from (and likely does NOT fit in your bread machine):
5 lb flour (about 16 cups)
6 tsp salt
1 1/2 c sugar or 1 c sugar and 1/2 c honey
1 c oil
5 tsp yeast mixed with 2 t sugar and 4 c warm water
Total flour: 5 lbs.
Directions for either amount:
Note: If using a bread machine, follow those directions-- something with the liquid on the bottom and the dry ingredients on top, I think, but check your bread machine's instructions because I don't really use it too much...)
Combine warm water, some of the sugar, and yeast. Let it do its thing for a few minutes and it will start to get a little bubblyish/foamy within a couple of minutes. If it doesn’t—don’t panic. Let it sit another couple of minutes. If it smells yeasty and is starting to get warm, even if you don’t see the bubbles, it’s working. If it does nothing thats bad; check the water to see that it's warm. If it is and the yeast is doing nothing, you might need to get new yeast.Mix flour, sugar, and salt; make a well (kind of a hole in the middle of the pile of the flour-sugar-salt mixture).
Add eggs, water (honey, if using), yeast mixture, and almost all of the oil (reserving some to rub on dough at the end) into the well.
(take challah (with or without a bracha) if appropriate)
Rub remaining oil on the dough and let rise in a covered bowl for approx. 1 hour, or until roughly doubled in size (again, if it’s not double the size but it’s getting bigger, don’t worry; let it sit a little longer. It's more important to have it double than let it sit for exactly 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (depending on how long your oven takes to heat up; you want to time it so that your oven is heated up just before you're ready to put the challah in to bake).
Punch down and shape.
(optional: Let dough have a second rise for 1 hour/until approx. doubled in size)
Let rise ½ hour on a covered baking pan (or in a challah pan if you have those). If you want to add anything like chocolate chips/raisins/craisins/other to the challah and have not yet, now would be the time; I do not add anything in this recipe because it's really good without add-ins.
Sprinkle on poppy seeds/sesame seeds/oatmeal/cinnamon-sugar/za'atar/anything else you want to
Bake until crust is medium brown (can spray with Pam after a few minutes to make the top crusty) and challah feels light (pick it up. If it jiggles or is heavy, it’s not done). You can also turn it over (pop it out of the pan if using a pan) and tap the bottom. If it sounds kind of hollow, it's done. Rolls need approx. 20 minutes, braided challahs need approx. 35-45 minutes, and pull-apart challahs need approx. 25-35 minutes.
Note about this dough: It is a very, very soft, sticky dough. Don't panic because it sticks to your hands and the other dough(s) did not...that's normal. I usually sprinkle LOTS of flour when shaping the dough.