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Jessamyn's Sephardic Challah
© Zubin Schroff

Jessamyn's Sephardic Challah

  • ACTIVE: 25 MIN
  • TOTAL TIME: 3 HRS 45 MIN Plus cooling
  • SERVINGS: Makes 2 round loaves
  • MAKE-AHEAD
  • STAFF-FAVORITE
  • VEGETARIAN

Jessamyn Waldman, founder of Hot Bread Kitchen, grew up in Canada eating challah, the Jewish Sabbath bread. Unlike the eggy challahs of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe, this version comes from the Sephardic Jews of the Mediterranean, who flavored their challahs with caraway and anise. Many challahs are braided, but this one is twisted into a round, turban-shaped loaf.

  1. 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  2. 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  3. 1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
  4. 1 envelope active dry yeast
  5. 2 cups lukewarm water
  6. 5 cups bread flour
  7. 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  8. 2 tablespoons honey
  9. 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  10. Cornmeal for dusting
  11. 2 large egg yolks
  1. In a skillet, toast the sesame, caraway and anise seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the water and let stand until thoroughly moistened, about 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour with the olive oil, the honey and the remaining water and mix at low speed until a very soft dough forms. Add the kosher salt, yeast mixture and all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds and mix at medium-low speed until the dough is supple and smooth, 10 minutes. Using oiled hands, transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free spot until the dough is risen, 1 hour.
  3. Lightly oil 2 small cookie sheets and dust them with cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press to deflate. Cut the dough in half and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope and let rest for 5 minutes longer, then roll each rope into a 32-inch rope. Beginning at the center and working outwards, form each rope into a coil; tuck the ends under the coils.
  4. Transfer each coil to a baking sheet and cover each loaf with a large, inverted bowl. Let stand for 1 hour, until the loaves have nearly doubled in bulk.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and let stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash once more and sprinkle with the reserved 1 tablespoon of seeds. Bake the loaves side-by-side in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until they're golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer the loaves to racks and let cool completely before slicing.
Make Ahead The loaves can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated for up to 1 week.