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The blessing of a Challa




The blessings of a Challa

There is a special feeling that I feel every Friday when I make challa. Not only because I love working with and kneading the dough (I call it dough therapy) but challa for me is so much more. challa making represents a tradition as old as Methuselah ... it personifies family and good friends. I have so many wonderful memories of so many Friday night dinners with family and friends and as I stand at my kitchen bench platting the challa I feel blessed knowing that my partner, my children, my siblings, my nephews, my niece and their partners and I will gather around the table to share a meal, stories of the week’s happenings ... a laugh and sometimes music. As the challa bakes in my oven, filling my kitchen with the sweet smell of freshly baked bread, it feels as if our home is being infused with the aromatic scent of love. Friday nights was what kept my spirits up through some pretty tough times. It was then that I felt most loved and supported by my family and my cup would fill to overflowing so I felt renewed and ready to face another week of challenges at the end of which another Shabbat would await me like an oasis. So when people ask why do you work so hard and make your own challa when you can buy one, how do you explain the blessings of a challah? I have made lots of different challas over the years, but the ones I keep coming back to are : the challa recipe by MMCC (Monday Morning Cook Book Club)and the other is one that I have been making for many, many years.

(My challa in the photo is a 4 braid challa)






Ingredients

4 ½ -5 ½ cups of all purpose, plain flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup luke warm water

1/3 cup of honey

¼ cup oil

3eggs + 1 egg for egg wash


Egg wash option 1

Ingredients

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water


Egg wash option 2

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

½ - 1 teaspoon salt


Egg wash option 3

1 large egg

1 teaspoon sugar


Method

Pour ½ cup of the lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl add the active dry yeast and the 1 teaspoon of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait for 10 minutes until texture becomes nice and foamy. If it doesn’t do that, highly likely your yeast has expired.


Once the yeast is foamy, add remaining lukewarm water to the bowl, three eggs, honey and oil. Use a whisk to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly


Using a large spoon stir in 4 1/2 cups of flour one cup at a time with the two spoons of salt. When the mixture becomes too thick to stir with the spoon, start to knead the dough by hand.

Once the dough has come together and is a little sticky, sprinkle flour on your work bench, transfer dough and continue to knead the dough adding the remaining one cup of flour a little at a time. You may not need all the flour or you may need a little more. Continue to knead the dough. Stop adding flour when the texture of your dough is elastic, smooth and nice to the touch.



Wash and dry the bowl you have worked with. Drizzle the bowl with oil. Place the dough back in the bowl, flip it over once so the top is lightly oiled as well then cover bowl with plastic wrap.


Place the dough in a warm draft-free spot until it doubled in size, roughly 2 to 3 hours

You can make two large challa’s or 3 small challas it’s up to you how many you would like to make.

Divide the dough to three or two even pieces and divide each piece into three even balls. Roll each ball into a long rope, if the ropes shrinks as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten (and your hands) and then try again.

Gather the three ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. Braid the the ropes together as if you were braiding hair to make a plait. And squeeze the end of the braid together as well.

Place the braided dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper and repeat with the remaining dough.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place away from drafts until puffed and pillowy for about 1 hour.


About 20 minutes before baking, whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and you can add sugar or salt. Using a basting brush, brush the challahs with the egg wash. Make sure you cover the challa with egg wash including the sides. Place the challa tray in the oven on the middle rack. Bake the challa for 30-35 minutes until cooked through, until the challah is a deep golden brown.


Note: You can use up to 6 cups of Challa in total but no more. I use roughly between 5 ¼ -5 ½ cups of flour in total.

Note: When baking yeast breads, rising times are only a guide; the temperature in your kitchen, the humidity level outdoors, and how you knead the dough will all affect the rising time.

If it’s a cold winters day, I put my dough in the microwave oven to rise. I don’t turn it on. Just close the door.

Make a head: Prepare the challa up to the point where you have braided it and its sitting on the baking tray. Cover it with greased plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, take the challa (with the baking tray) out of the fridge and let it sit on the kitchen bench for about an hour, (leave the plastic wrap) so it reaches room temp. Let it before baking then 20 minutes before going into the oven cover with egg wash.








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