Prep 20 mins
Cook 1 hr
Berches is the name for Challah in German and western Yiddish. This version is the traditional old-fashioned kind made with a minimal amount of fat and sugar and no eggs except in the glaze. It has a thin crispy crust and a chewy crumb with a plain but excellent flavor. Recipe time does not include proofing time.
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1⁄2 cup water (100 degrees F)
- 6 1⁄2 cups bread flour
- fine cornmeal or semolina
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- poppy seed (optional)
- Dissolve the sugar and salt in the boiling water and add the oil; set aside to cool until lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm water (100°F), and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the yeast water to the flour and then the remaining water to which you had added salt, sugar and oil.
- Knead in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, at the lowest speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Leave the dough to rest in the bowl, covered, for about 20 minutes, then place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
- The following day, take out the dough and, without kneading it, divide it in half. Divide each half into 3, 4, or 6 pieces, depending on how many strands you want for shaping the braids.
- Roll each piece into a long, even strand, not too thin, and shape the braids. It is better to lightly flour each strand before braiding them. This will help keep the braided shape neat during baking.
- Sprinkle generously on a baking sheet with fine cornmeal or semolina and place the shaped breads on it, cover and leave them to rise for 1 1/2 or 2 hours, then brush them with yolk mixed with 1 tbsp of water and sprinkle with poppy seed if you like.
- Bake the bread in a preheated oven 425F for about 45-60 minutes.
- If you have a baking stone, preheat it for at least 45 minutes and bake the breads directly on it. Let the breads cool on a rack.