Bread, Wine, And Thou…
I love to make bread. This past Easter I made a very special Challah. Thanks to my friend Tobi I now know how to pronounce it correctly! The Ch starts way back in your throat with a gutteral, scratchy Huh and K sound all at once. Try it…it’s fun, especially if you really exagerate it!
This eggy bread is not reserved for the Jewish Sabbath or Easter, but can be enjoyed any time. Challah, known by many different names, is used in cultures all over the world. The recipe I made is easy to include with any big dinner party as you make it ahead, freeze and bake just before serving. Leftovers (if there are any!) make delicious French Toast or yummy fried sandwiches. Go heavy on the egg wash using two coats and be sure not to over-bake.
3 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast; about 1 1/2 packages
1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup lukewarm water (too hot and it will kill the yeast; not hot enough and the yeast won’t “work”)
1/2 cup vegetable oil; more for greasing the bowl (I used butter for greasing.)
5 large eggs
1 Tbsp. table salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup raisins (optional) plumped in hot water and drained
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling (I used poppy.)
|Here is the dough all raised after sitting in a warm spot for 1 hour,
ready to be punched down and rise again…get the symbolism?!?
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 Tbsp. sugar and salt. This is a good way to “test” your yeast. If after a couple minutes, the yeast does not foam up, it is no good. Start over with new yeast. Within 5 minutes it should be nice and foamy.
Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 large eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Use more flour as necessary so dough does not stick. Clean out bowl and grease it using either oil or butter, then return dough to bowl. Swirl it around so all sides and top benefit from the oil/butter. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for at least an hour until almost doubled in size. Punch dough down (with love), cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half hour.
At this point you can knead the raisins into the Challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. Traditionally Challah is braided. You can use a fancy 6-braid technique or simply do what I did which is divide dough in half. Form 3 strands for each loaf and braid as you would hair. Pinch and fold the ends together and under so braids don’t unravel. Either keep as a loaf or bring the two ends together to form a circle for a round loaf.
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