Update on Life: Daughter vomited Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night), so I decided to keep her home with me on Sunday, just in case she was sick. I was afraid to spend the whole day alone with my precious ball of energy….yes, very afraid! In the end, we had fun and even bonded. We went to the shopping center, along with son (of course!), to buy new shoes. We found the perfect pair of sneakers right away, but of course she wanted to try on all the formal shoes before we left (not kidding!). The shoe place gave her a balloon afterwards. She was ecstatic! We had our very first mother/daughter shopping experience. I’m psyched about it, if you can’t tell.
As for the Challah…let’s get started! Women (and gentlemen) get prepared to get sticky with dough :).
I always felt guilty about my inability to bake challah, but with my life circumstances, it just was impossible. When we moved here, I did not even think of baking challah. There were so many bakeries, and I kept feeling like my kitchen was lacking in one way or another. Then one week a stressful situation arose, and there was absolutely nothing I could physically do to help improve it (sorry for being so secretive!!). I really wanted to actively do something and that’s when I decided to bake challah and say the special prayers. Thank G-d everything worked out well, and ever since then, I have made baking challah a priority. Plus, it tastes so much better home-made!
Total time: A long time!! 30 minutes to make the dough, an hour for it to rise, 30 minutes to shape the loaves, an hour for the loaves to rise....not to mention letting the loaves cool after the oven and then bagging them for the freezer, and then fitting them strategically in the freezer! I would say all day, basically. Please heed my advice, bake challah on the day of the week that is calmest for you. If you could tell my challah is half whole wheat in the pictures. I was so busy photographing the challah-making process that I added 3 cups water instead of 4, so I needed to start all over again. Except I didn't have enough white flour and needed to substitute with whole wheat. My point is- focus, be present, enjoy the process, and minimize distractions. Bake time: 20-25 minutes per batch Here is what you need: 7 ingredients, corresponding to the 7th day of the week...SHABBOS! (that's my mother's inspiration for you!).
Just a brief overview of Challah: I will loosely translate challah as the special bread we eat on Shabbos (Saturday, our day of rest). The job of making the challah was given to Jewish women- it is their special mitzvah (commandment). Now, making challah requires time, work, energy, and commitment; things that are not always available to the working woman. It is definitely common for women to purchase challah from their local bakery or supermarket, which is 100% okay. (In my case, I would take from my mother’s fresh batch. Her challah is soooo much better than any store!) The thing is that baking challah is not only a physical process, but there are spiritual elements to it as well! When a woman makes 5 pounds of dough, she is supposed to say a special blessing on a small piece (the size of a golf ball) of dough, which is followed by 2 other special prayers. This is a very powerful time where she is able to pray for anything that she and her family needs- health, happiness, success, and of course, peace in Israel ;).
FYI- You don't need to use bread flour. My mother swears by King Author bread flour. I use regular white flour...honestly, I wouldn't even know where to find bread flour in this country!
Let’s get started on the recipe:
This recipe is from my mother and she has made challah 100 million times! She is the challah baking queen!
Yields: A lot, so either you'll have a fully stocked freezer or happy neighbors! Seriously speaking, 5 large/medium challahs
2 tablespoons salt
A 5 pound bag of flour + more for shaping the loaves,
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons yeast
4 cups warm water (warm enough for a baby's bath)
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
Oh and if you're kneading the flour by hand, make sure you have a big mixing bowl, like the one above.
Step #1: Add the salt, half of your 5 pound bag of flour (approximately 8 cups).
Step #2: Pour the remaining bag of flour over all the wet ingredients. Now you should see just white flour in your bowl, everything else should be buried underneath.
Step #3: Sprinkle the sugar over the flour. Then place your yeast in the center of the bowl.
Step #4: Pour the warm water over the yeast.
Step #5: Cover with a clean dish towel and let sit for 5 minutes. When you remove the dishtowel, the yeast should be foamy and bubbly
Step #6: Now you could start kneading the mixture into dough. Make sure you spend 20 solid minutes kneading the dough. This is a wonderful time to let out all your frustrations. Punch that dough like a punching bag! If the dough is very sticky gradually add some more flour. It's okay if it's a little sticky...it's dough after all!
Step #7: Cover your dough with a clean dishtowel and allow to rise for one hour. I generally place the bowl in the oven, so it won't feel any drafts in the apartment. If your house is too cold then the dough wont rise well.
Separating the Challah:
After your dough has risen, it is time for the spiritual part :). Here is link that will tell you the appropriate steps of doing hafrashas challah.
(separating the challah):
Step #8: Now you could start to braid your loaves or knot your rolls. Have fun! The dough will be sticky so have some flour handy. Cover your hands in flour to help shape- do not drudge the dough in flour! Place your loaves in a greased pan- either a loaf pan or a jelly roll pan.
I recommend using disposable aluminum pans. It prevents your challahs from burning on the bottom.
Step #9: Allow your newly braided challahs to rise for approximately 1 hour. While they're rising you could make your egg wash. Gently brush each challah loaf or roll with your egg wash.
Step #10: Place the challahs on the middle shelf of the oven. They should bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
Step #11: Let stand out of oven for 5 minutes then take challah out of loaf pan and place on cooling rack. Let cool for 30 minute
If you plan on freezing your challah (great idea!) then you must do it the day you baked it for ultimate freshness. I know your tired, but you're almost done. Glad ziplock bags should do the trick. Do not let the challahs sit in your freezer for too long because eventually they begin to taste like the freezer (yuch!). We generally finish our challahs within a month and a half. Good luck & Good night!
As you could see, it's not easy! But the work really does pay off. I love the inner satisfaction I feel Friday night when my husband cuts through my warm challah loaves.