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!

No-Knead Bread

Maybe I am a sheeple…but it works.
The latest trend in bread baking was brought on by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois in their book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I just ordered the book. While I wait for the book to arrive, I decided to try out the master recipe that has been posted all across blogs and newspapers. The duo have a website, click here.

 

Master Recipe by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Makes four 1-pound loaves

3 cups lukewarm water (about 100º F)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour (no need to sift)
Cornmeal for the pizza peel

 

In a 5-quart bowl, mix the yeast, water and salt. Add all the flour, then use a wooden spoon to mix until all ingredients are uniformly moist. It is not necessary to knead or continue mixing once the ingredients are uniformly moist. This will produce a loose and very wet dough.

Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 5 hours.

After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered (non completely airtight) and refrigerated up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.

On baking day, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the bread from sticking when you transfer it to the oven. Uncover the dough and sprinkle the surface with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough (serrated knives are best). Store the remaining dough in the bowl and refrigerate for baking at another time.

Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick. Create a smooth ball of dough by gently pulling the sides down around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. While shaping, most of the dusting flour will fall off. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. Shaping the loaf this way should take no more than 1 minute.
Place the dough on the pizza peel. Allow the loaf to rest for about 40 minutes. It does not need to be covered. The bread may not rise much during this time.

Twenty minutes before baking, place a pizza stone on the center rack of the oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, use another baking sheet. Remove any upper racks. Place a broiler pan on a rack below the pizza stone or on the floor of the oven. Preheat oven to 450 F.

When the dough has rested for 40 minutes, dust the top liberally with flour, then use a serrated knife to slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top.

Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack.Here is a picture of my first try. I was definitely impressed and surprised that it worked.

 

It isn’t so pretty, but it tastes good dipped in olive oil. Would be good with a good hearty soup. I hope for prettier bread with the remaining dough. I will add some rosemary and garlic with the next batch.

Rosemary Bread

I would like to remind you that I am not a baker. I baked. I experimented. It wasn’t all that bad. I am not ready to venture into cakes and cookies this week. I am tiptoeing into breadmaking. I decided to try my hand at a flavorful bread. I love rosemary and I love garlic…so I knew what was coming. I looked at all sorts of recipes that I wasn’t thrilled with. In the end, I used 3 or 4 different recipes to come up with my own creation.
I wanted at least one or two loaves. In the end, I got one large loaf and eight rolls.
Rosemary Bread
  • 2 cups warm water water
  • 3 tsp. yeast
  • 3/8 cup of olive oil
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • 4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. cracked pepper
  • 1 whole garlic – roasted lightly then sliced (you could lightly saute it as well)
  • A handful of fresh rosemary – chopped
  • 5 cups bread flour
Pour warm water into the bowl of your mixer. Add yeast. Add sugar. Let sit until bubbly. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Knead the dough. Put dough into an oiled bowl. Let rise until doubled, about an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape into loaves or rolls. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake until done. Cut a thick slice. Dab with butter or olive oil. Eat. Best when eaten warm.
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So, I was quite pleased with the results above. I could have stopped there, except we were out of sandwich bread. So during the rosemary rising, I mixed up some sandwich bread. The two buddies got baked together and all was good with the world – until slicing.

I really should learn some knife skills and/or buy a bread slicer.

We only have Hello Kitty bandaids in the house. At least my finger is pretty, says the 6-year-old, who was jealous that I had a cut worthy of a bandaid. We are stingy about bandaids here.

 

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And you thought my evening was over. A look in my cabinet and freezer told me that we were running low on baby food. The shelf stable jarred stuff gives me the heebie jeebies. I worry about preservatives. I am not even talking about the baby food meat products. I won’t even go there. The jarred pureed fruits and veggies leave me queasy and I don’t even have to eat them.
Baby food is super easy to make. Anything can be pureed. Only combine flavors that you would eat yourself. Don’t just throw your leftovers in a bowl and have a go. On the evening’s schedule was butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Throw the goods into your oven at 350 and baked until soft. Peel the skin off the root veggies. Dump into a bowl and puree with a hand blender, cuisinart, and/or blender. You can add a bit of water if needed to reach the right consistency. I was happy with the outcome. The food freezes well and is quite portable.
Thank you for sharing the evening adventures with me!

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