Fresh yeast is available at bagel bakeries or any bakery - just ask for a block. Instant dry yeast is also perfectly fine for this feathery, moist and lightly sweet holiday challah but nothing beats the imcomparable taste and texture of a challah made with fresh yeast, let alone, the fragrance! If you never experienced the slightly different (and more subtle) scent of fresh yeast in home bread baking, make this new year the time to start. Be brave. Be bold. Start the new year on a high note.
1 ½ cups warm water
1 ½ ounces fresh yeast (or 2 tablespoons instant yeast)
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5-6 cups bread flour
1 cup raisins, plumped and dried
In a large mixing bowl, whisk water and yeast together and let stand 5 minutes. Add in one cup of the flour, and then stir in the eggs, honey, sugar, oil, salt and most of the flour. Fold in more flour, stirring with a wood spoon, and then kneading with dough hook, to make a soft dough, 8-10 minutes. When dough is almost fully kneaded, add in the raisins.
Remove the dough hook from the machine. Then form the dough into a mass in the mixing bowl and spray the dough with nonstick cooking spray and cover (the entire mixer/bowl and all) with a large plastic bag. Let rise until almost doubled, 45 minutes.
Gently deflate the dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in three portions. Form each into a rope about 10 inches long. Braid and then take the braided dough and pinch ends together to make a wreath or rounded, braided dough. For a very formed, round – place the dough in the springform pan. Alternatively, place the bread on the baking sheet.
Brush with egg wash and dust with granulated sugar or leave plain.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 45-55 minutes.
Bake in a preheated 350 F until browned, 35-40 minutes.
Cool well before slicing. Makes one large challah.
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