My Favorite Challah

September is a crazy busy month for this lady. September means a busy work schedule, a busy school schedule for the kids and this year, it also means a crazy busy holiday schedule in our house. The Jewish holidays sprung early this year. On one day, it meant searching high and low for the last protractor on this side of New Jersey, while also looking in the depths of every market for a new fruit I haven’t yet eaten.  On other days, it anchors me to my kitchen, dividing my time between my laptop and my stove. I do love this season of Jewish holidays though. As the cool air creeps in, there is this beautiful air of celebration and anticipation of the fall holiday season. Or maybe that’s just the pumpkin spice lattes I’m smelling. Whatever it is, the mood changes. Life is busy, but in a good way.

I recently celebrated the holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) as well as the holiday of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Both of these holidays provide me with ample time for reflection and appreciation of the past year as well as the year to come. After the crazy roller-coaster I was on this winter, I am so appreciative and thankful for my good health and for all of the support I had from my friends and family. They’ve been there for me, and I love them for it.

This month’s Kosher Connection link-up is all about Spreading the Joy during this holiday season.

I want to share my challah with you.

Challah

Ever since I was a kid, I have looked forward to Shabbat with my family. Friday night dinner with the family is sacrosanct. You don’t mess with that tradition. It’s not about level of Jewish observance. You just find a way to be at the shabbat table with family and friends, celebrating the end of the week together. Shabbat has been the constant in my life. Through my own various cycles and changes in my own Jewish observance, Shabbat has always meant “home” at the end of a long week.

We come together on Friday evening and light candles, and then sit down together for a warm meal –  over good food, good wine, and good company.  This includes challah. Our special holiday and shabbat bread.

I may not be a baker, but I love making challah. I love the process of working with the dough and getting it just right. I also love some of the spiritual rituals that come with making challah. In Jewish communities around the world, people come together while making challah and use that time to pray for health and wellbeing for loved ones. While preparing the dough, it us customary to keep in mind the names of loved ones who may be unwell or possibly need a job. We say a blessing while keeping the names of these people on our minds.

This past month, I’ve had the opportunity to make challah a few times. Each time, I’ve made challah with a friend who had never made challah before. Somehow, when you make challah around others, it makes this ritual all the more special.

My favorite challah recipe is adapted from a recipe that I found on a bag of flour. Over the past several years, I have tried numerous challah recipes. I’ve had several failures and several successes, but this recipe that I am sharing with you, is a recipe that always results in good challah. You can dress it up with whatever topping you’d like. or you may like to fill it with apples or chocolate chips, like I did for our Rosh Hashanah challahs. On some cool fall days, I have also been known to add some roasted garlic to the mix. Just play with it, and enjoy!

My Favorite Challah
 
adapted from the back of the bag of Glick’s flour
Author:
Recipe type: Bread, Shabbat, Jewish Holiday

Ingredients
  • 3.5 tbsp. Active Dry Yeast
  • 5 cups warm water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 5 lbs of High Gluten Bread Flour plus extra flour for kneading and shaping (1-2 cups)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup, plus 2 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. salt

Instructions
  1. Place yeast, sugar, honey and warm water in to a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of your mixer. I used a Bosch for this recipe. Allow the yeast to sit a few minutes until it bubbles.
  2. Add about 6 cups of the flour and mix in to a paste.
  3. Add eggs, ½ cup of oil, vanilla and the salt. Stir together.
  4. Add the rest of the bag of flour and knead for several minutes. The dough may be a little sticky.
  5. Add the 2tbsp, of oil and knead a few more minutes.
  6. If you are using a machine, turn the dough on to a floured counter and knead a few more minutes. You may need to add an additional half a cup of flour. The dough should be smooth and easy to work with.
  7. Oil large bowl and brush oil on the top of the dough and place in the bowl. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel or with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for around 45 minutes. You will need to punch the dough down halfway through. The dough should double in size.
  8. At this point, you can take challah.
  9. Now is the time to shape your challah. I love the various braiding tutorials on the Challah Blog.
  10. Once you’ve shaped your challah, cover your challahs with plastic wrap or with towels, and place in a warm spot. Allow the challah to rise for another 40 minutes.
  11. Preheat your own to 350.
  12. Brush your challah with an egg wash. Now is the chance to add any toppings like sesame seeds, poppy seeds and other goodies.
  13. Bake your challah at 350 for about 40 minutes.
  14. When you tap on yoiur challah, it should sound hollow. That’s a sign of doneness.
  15. Enjoy!

Tribes-a-Dozen Challah Review and Giveaway!

I was so happy when I saw the an email in my inbox from Leah over at Tribes-a-Dozen. She told me all about this great new product – Voila! Hallah.

For those of you that don’t know, Voila! Hallah is a new product. It’s the first-ever challah mix in a box. You heard that right – a challah mix in a box. So cool, right?! When I first heard about the mix, I wasn’t so sure what to think. I like shortcuts. I don’t always have success with the boxed stuff. This is definitely a better approach than a frozen Kinneret challah though. And perfect for someone who wants to make a small batch of good challah with ease. You can learn more about Voila! Hallah on their website, facebook and tumblr pages!

I’ve had hits and misses with challah baking. I find that my challah never comes out the same twice. I have come a long way from my first challah baking experience. I now have one set recipe I prefer to use, and ever since I got a Bosch mixer, challah baking has been relatively painless. I tend  make a huge 5lb batch of flour in to challah at time. I manage to stretch that challah to around 12 small challahs or so – which will  last a month or more in our house. Still,  I  was intrigued by this box of promising challah.

Leah sent me three boxes. I am testing the regular plain challah as well as the spelt challah. I have one box of whole wheat challah mix to share with one lucky reader of this blog!

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I am pleased that the instructions on the box were clear and easy to understand. Like other boxed mixes, you only need to have a few ingredients on hand – eggs, vegetable oil, sugar and optional toppings.

I chose to follow the instructions as stated on the box. If I choose, I can always play with other options for subsequent challah bakings.

Included in the box is a flour mix and a yeast packet.

You start by mixing the flour and yeast mixture with warm water. The you add the egg and oil.

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At this point, I wasn’t sure how successful the mix would be. The mixture was sticky – though I was assured by the box, that it would indeed be sticky. I was just used to a different consistency for bread.

You let the dough rest and then you shape it and brush on some egg wash.

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After the shaping, you let the braided loafs rise.

In to the oven they go for around 25 minutes.

It smelled so good while it baked. I was excited to pull them out of the oven. Lo and behold – I have two challahs! Perfect for Shabbat! So happy! I did set aside a small challah roll for sampling before shabbat. Verdict is in – it tasted great!

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I highly recommend this mix – for the nervous or hesitant baker, or for someone short on time. This mix was easy and it came out perfectly.

Thanks to the kind folks at Tribes-a-Dozen, I have a box of Voila! Hallah to send to one lucky blog reader. Please fill out the raffle form below! Please note that this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

Shabbat Shalom!

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