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Marsha's Easy Challah Recipe

I make this in my food processor, using the dough blade. Any 2-3 quart or larger foodprocessor and blade will work. You can also use an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment.
1 package Fleischmann's RapidRise dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (115 degrees or so-- should feel warm but not burning to your wrist)
pinch of saffron threads(optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
4 cups unbleached bread flour OR 2 cups unbleached (preferably bread) flour and 2 scant cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons Earth Balance, Smart Balance or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
Raisins and/or sesame/poppy seeds if desired

Measure 1/3 cup of warm tap water into a cup. Crumble the saffron threads between your fingers and add to the water. Stir in yeast and sugar. Let stand for 3-5 minutes until mixture is foamy.
In the meantime, measure 4 cups of flour and salt into food processor bowl. Break eggs and add to measuring cup, separating one egg and saving out its yolk in a separate small bowl. When all eggs are in the measuring cup, add enough cold water to bring the egg/water liquid volume to 1 cup.
Turn on the food processor. Mix flour with salt and Earth Balance (or margarine). If you are using a dough blade, you add raisins if you are using them. (Note: if you don't have a dough blade and are using a cutting blade instead, the raisins will get chopped up in this process, so it's better to wait and add them once the dough is finished, although they won't mix in quite easily or as well.) Add the eggs and cold water to the foamy yeast and stir. With the food processor running, add the yeast-eggs-water in a slow steady stream, and process until dough cleans the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Open processor, push dough down, and process for another 30 seconds or so. Dough should be well mixed and not sticky--if it's very sticky add a bit more flour to the food processor and process until it's mixed in. If it is only a bit sticky, flour your hand and knead for a few moments until dough is smooth and elastic. (Knead in raisins if desired if you didn't add them earlier.) If the dough is too dry to form a ball, add small amounts of ice water and continue to process until a dough ball forms.
Add a tablespoon of flour to a 1 gallon non-zip plastic bag food storage bag and shake around until it's distributed. Put the dough in the plastic bag, squeeze out the excess air, and seal a twist tie at the top of the bag, leaving the dough as much bag space as possible to expand. Let the dough rise in a warm but not hot place for about an hour and a half to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.
Remove dough from the plastic bag. Form into 2 large or 4 small or 8 mini balls of dough. Shape each ball of dough into a rope; take 1/3 of each dough rope, attach it to the reamining 2/3 of the rope folded in half, and braid. Tuck under the end, and place in appropriately sized loaf pans (permanent or disposable) that have been sprayed with parve cooking spray, or place them on a sprayed cookie sheet. Take the reserved egg yolk, add 2 tablespoons of water, and beat together well to make egg wash. With a food brush, gently paint the egg wash over the exposed surface of the loaves. Sprinkle with sesame and/or popppy seeds if desired. Let rise in a warm but not hot place for about an hour or so, until doubled in bulk. (Note: they may be left to rise for longer (1 1/2-2 hours), but if they rise TOO much more than that in a warm place, they may implode and collapse. So if you need to leave them for a few hours, leave them standing at room temperature and they should be okay.)
For Rosh Hashanah, the same dough can make 2 nice-sized round challot. After it rises, divide dough into 2-4 portions, make each into a thick rope, and spiral each into a round challah, tucking the outside end underneath. Place the loaves in the oven, and turn on oven to 375 degrees. Bake until tops of challot are deep golden brown but not burnt. Remove from oven. Remove from loaf pans or cookie sheet after about 5 minutes of standing so they don't stick or get soggy. Enjoy!
(Extra loaves may be frozen and warmed for a few minutes in a low oven prior to serving.)

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