When my husband and I were first dating and even for a while when we were married, he was the primary challah baker. I know that is non-typical, but he did such a good job that I just let him do it. We had a bread machine and he had a great recipe to go with it.
In early 2005, I became pregnant with my first son and decided to take over the challah making responsibilities around that time. I followed the bread machine recipe my husband gave me and it was foolproof. Delicious challot every time.
Around Pesach of 2008, I managed to lose the paddle of the bread machine while cleaning for the holiday. Afterward, I sought out challah recipes that could be made by hand. I received a few and ended up going for one my friend gave me from her chef school. After a few trial runs, I modified the recipe to my liking and it came out even better. I used the Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook at this time. I also decided to switch to whole wheat flour in early 2009. I was making the challah this way for a while and had a lot of success with it.
This past November, I attended an event at our local Chabad called "Loaves of Love." It was in honor of Rivkie Holtzberg, the Rebbetzin who was tragically killed by terrorists in Mumbai. She used to make challot for everyone in the community or whoever needed it for Shabbos. The program allowed everyone involved to make challah for themselves and for a friend, neighbor, colleague, etc. (I gave ours to a close friend who is also our neighbor.) There was a raffle at the event and yours truly won a huge bowl with challah ingredients and an apron inside.
The next time I baked challah after that event, I started using the bowl and kneading the dough completely by hand. I can't imagine making challah the electronic way ever again. It's so satisfying to knead the dough with the strength of my arms and my love for Judaism and Shabbos. Sometimes I let my son help mix the ingredients. He enjoys it too.
I've mentioned before (perhaps more indirectly) how the "Loaves of Love" event got my mom interested in challah baking. Recently, she had over some family members and friends to do a challah baking party on Super Bowl Sunday. They took pictures and sent them to me. My 9 year-old cousin was one of the bakers and it looked like she was having a fantastic time. I got verklempt from looking at the pictures because it was so special to see women coming together to bake challah. I hope I can take part in that the next time I'm in Chicago. I'd also love to have my mom help me bake challah the next time she's here for a visit. It's such a beautiful experience every time. And the results are always delicious!