Challah (Jewish Bread)

I often get asked for my challah recipe. There is a mystical and spiritual experience when making challah for Shabbat which is like no other.

First, there is the Yeast Rise (aka the Doubtful Phase). Once the yeast hits the warm water, I pray: “Oh please G-d, let it work. Rise! Rise! I don’t have time to run out and buy challah!”

Then there’s the Dough Rise(aka the Beggar Phase). Under the heat lamps I worry and lament: “Oh G-d, pleeeeease let it rise just this once. I need it to be perfect for Shabbat. Please!”

Once it has risen and the bread is in the oven baking, I take a chair and sit in front of the door and watch it (aka I’m-a-Neurotic-Mom-Phase). Everyone knows in my house not to come into the vicinity of the oven at that point (aka the I-Fear-Mom-Cause-She-Be-Cray-Cray Phase)

Then the challah comes out of the oven all hot and smelling the house with the divine scent of shabbat followed by the proclamation phase (aka I’m-The-Best-Damn-Jewish-Mama-Ever!).

All you need is a good basic challah recipe and add creativity to it every time. I often use this simple basic challah recipe and add a twist to it every Shabbat, depending on my mood.

If I am feeling joyful and need something sweet (aka PMS Phase) I will make a sweet challah. Sweet challah fillings such as:

  • Fig, orange and dark chocolate
  • Apple cinnamon
  • White chocolate pecan
  • Chocolate and pear

If I’m feeling a little naughty, I will go for a savoury challah, like:

  • Onion and thyme
  • Garlic and rosemary
  • Sundried tomato and basil

Now if I’m feeling like I need to be sweet but really want to be naughty, I make sweet and savoury fillings such as:

  • Fig and olive (with goat cheese if it’s a dairy night)
  • Cherry, brie and thyme

Now you understand why it’s the woman’s role to make challah Shabbat, don’t you? So the men know what mood we are in without having to ask.

Ingredients

Basic Challah Recipe:

4 tsp. active dry yeast

¼ c. honey or sugar

¼ c. canola oil

4 egg yolks

3 ¼ c. flour

1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

Instructions

Begin by putting the yeast in a large bowl and pour 1 cup of 115 degree water over it. Stir to combine and let sit until it gets foamy, about 10 minutes.

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Next, add the honey or sugar, followed by the canola oil and egg yolks. Whisk to combine.

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Add the flour and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball. Then lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle more flour on top of dough and work dough until it isn’t very sticky and can easily form a ball.

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Place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a warm spot, free of drafts (I put mine under my heat lamps) and allow to rise for 1 hour. After an hour, it will double in size:

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Punch down lightly to remove the air pockets, cover again and let sit for another 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

This shabbat, I chose to make challah knots. You can easily form a braided loaf as well. Should you choose to braid the dough into one challah, form 3 ropes and braid. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and place on middle rack of oven to bake.

If making challah knots, cut the dough into 12 balls. Roll out each ball into a thick, small rope about 8-10″ long.

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Form a knot (there are great videos on youtube to show you how such as  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xWY6kltlBc ) and place in a greased 9 x 13″ baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit another 30 minutes.

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Brush with egg wash (that’s one beaten egg) and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Recipe adapted from Saveur

 

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