Mrs. Fenton’s Big Challah Recipe

When the Duke of Ravenscroft takes Devorah to Ten Oaks Manor for the Sabbath, Mrs. Fenton, the housekeeper there, is busy baking challah. More than a dozen adults and orphans live at Ten Oaks, so Mrs. Fenton has a lot of challah to bake each Friday morning. Here is her excellent recipe for this special Jewish braided bread, which is eaten on the Sabbath and holidays. Believe me, it’s a lot simpler and goes a lot faster than it looks. And it tastes great!


4.5 pounds, plus 4 cups (2 kg., plus 4 cups; or approximately 18-1/2 cups) sifted flour *
3 Tbsp. instant dried yeast
1 cup sugar (demerara or raw cane recommended)
2-3 Tbsp. salt, depending on taste
3 eggs
1 cup oil
6 cups lukewarm water

Note: Make sure to have additional flour on hand, as the actual amount required may also vary according to climatic and other conditions. The last time Mrs. Fenton made this recipe, she needed 6-1/2 pounds of flour!


Measure the flour into a large tub or oversized bowl. Add dry ingredients to the flour one by one, in the order that they are listed. Mix well after adding each ingredient.

In a separate bowl, measure out the water. Add the eggs and oil; mix well. (Mrs. Fenton uses a fork to mix the liquid so that the eggs are beaten in.) Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir well. (A giant wooden spoon is recommended).

When you are unable to stir the dough with a spoon, start kneading the rest of the flour into the dough using your bare hands. You can knead the dough right in the bowl or else turn it out onto a table to knead. As the dough becomes sticky, dust the top of it with flour and continue kneading until all the flour is mixed in and the dough becomes elastic and springs back after each fold.

Remove the dough from the bowl and oil the bowl well. Place the dough back in bowl. Mrs. Fenton takes challah at this point by saying a special blessing and removing a small piece of dough, which she burns in the fire.

Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it away from cold or drafts for at least a few hours, until double in bulk. The amount of time it takes the dough to rise will depend on the temperature of the room and the water you used in the dough.

When the dough has doubled, push it down. Cut it into eight wedges, and shape each wedge into a braided loaf or six to eight challah rolls. Place the challah braids or rolls several inches apart on greased or lined baking sheets. Brush with beaten egg mixed with a little water so that the tops will be brown and shiny, and let the dough rise for another half hour or so.

Bake in a preheated 350° F (180° C) oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until nicely brown on top. Challahs will rise further while baking. Once they have risen most of the way in the oven and are slightly browned (about 12-15 minutes of baking), you may want to brush them with more egg mixture to give them a better shine. Properly baked challahs should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

* The amount of flour required if you are measuring in pounds was calculated at 7-1/4 cups to the kilo (2.2 lb.), or 3.3 cups to the pound for white flour. Whole-grain flours are heavier and you may need to weigh the flour out. Generally, if you are using 100-percent whole wheat flour, you will need to reduce the total amount of flour somewhat. Mrs. Fenton uses white flour, but Devorah prefers a 70-percent whole wheat pastry flour.