Monday, December 24, 2012

Challa Bread

Challa Bread
Makes 2 loaves
My neighbor, Bonnie, grew up with a Jewish friend and learned to love their family traditions, songs and the Hebrew language. Every Sunday she taught our Mormon young women a lot about the Hebrew alphabet and about many Jewish traditions (I was a teacher in Young Women so I got to hear her lessons). Even though she didn't talk about food, her lessons gave me the nudge to learn how to make something I'd always wanted to try . . . challa bread. Check out how to braid a six-strand challa.
This recipe is from Maya at chai time dot com

4 ½ tsp active dry yeast, (2 packages)
1 tsp sugar

2 C warm water
5 ½ - 7 C flour

4 tsp salt

4 TBL honey or sugar
2/3 C oil

6 eggs, beaten

optional, add saffron or yellow food dye to the water for a golden dough

Glaze & Seed garnish
1 Egg

2 TBL Sesame Seeds or Poppy Seeds
1.     Place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and 2 cups lukewarm water in small mug or cup. Mix with a fork and let sit while you prepare the wet mixture.
2.     Place salt, honey, oil and eggs in bowl. Add saffron water or food dye. I use twelve drops of yellow food dye.  Add foamy Yeast mixture.
3.     Add a cup of flour at a time until dough can be turned out of bowl onto kneading surface. Sprinkle flour on kneading surface and place dough onto it. Begin kneading. The dough will feel very sticky. Knead flour into dough until dough can be handled without sticking to your hands and is smooth and elastic to the touch.
4.     Place kneaded dough in a bowl, cover with a dishtowel and put in a warm, draft free area (the microwave is a good place—just don’t turn it on). Let dough rise for two hours.
5.     Preheat oven to 350 º F.
6.     Punch down risen dough. Take your fist and punch it down the middle of the dough while it is still in the bowl. The yeast, if it has worked, has caused a lot of gas to build up in the bread and it should have doubled in size.  Knead the dough once more for a few minutes.

7.     This recipe makes two large loaves. For three strand Challah, cut the dough into two halves first, then cut each half into 3 equal lumps. Roll each lump into a foot long “rope”. Braid like you would hair. For a six-strand Challah cut the dough into two halves first, then cut each half into six equal lumps.
8.     Put braided loaves on oiled baking stone or in loaf pans. I prefer the stone so that the bread keeps its original long, oval shape. Cover and let braided loaves rise for one hour.
9.     Beat one egg. Brush both loaves heavily with egg. Moisten finger with egg wash, dip it in Sesame Seeds and then press sesame seeds onto each section of the Challah. The egg wash makes for a beautiful golden Challah and the sesame seeds make it very pretty. Some choose to use poppy seeds instead.
10.  Place in 350 º oven and bake for 45 minutes until loaves are golden brown. Check it before removing from the oven. Some days it takes a little longer to bake through.

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