In the early years of my marriage, I started baking challah, a braided loaf that is traditionally eaten on the Jewish Sabbath. My first attempts were comical. Since we did not own any type of mixer, I had to prepare the dough using just a spoon and my hands. The mixing and kneading process were onerous. The mess was incredible. I struggled to create the perfect texture. My braiding sometimes looked awkward. The purchase of a Kitchen Aid mixer allowed me to prepare the dough in a fraction of the time.
When I was raising my children, they often joined me in the kitchen. My third son, Aaron, was the most interested in culinary affairs. However, when it came to making challah, he usually did not have the patience for the long drawn out process of waiting for dough to rise twice.
After decades of practice, I am much more confident. I have experimented with various recipes and have been pleased with most. Although I have always preferred making my own challah, I have eaten challah prepared by Jews and Gentiles. While sailing aboard Celebrity Cruise ships, we have enjoyed many loaves of their challah. During our last cruise, Chef Thomas shared the recipe.
Recently, I tried the recipe. Aaron stood by my side. As an adult, he was more patient and willing to watch the entire process. Eagerly, he braided the second loaf.
This recipe is unique compared to the others that I have tried. It does not include any form of fat- oil, margarine, or shortening. While most challah recipes call for starting with some or most of the flour, this recipe adds the flour at the end.
This is a modified version of Chef Thomas’ recipe. Wherever possible I condensed the language and also tried to make a few steps more clear. I was delighted with the magnificent loaves that graced our Shabbat table.
Challah Per Celebrity Cruises
1 (.25 ounce) package of active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (100 degrees F)
2 tablespoons honey (We like a sweeter challah. We used 3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon salt
3 beaten eggs
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 beaten egg or more for the egg wash (I add some honey)
In a large bowl, stir the yeast into the water.
Let stand until a creamy layer forms on top. (about 10 minutes)
(I usually dissolve and proof the the yeast in a glass measuring cup)
Stir in honey and salt until dissolved.
Add the beaten eggs
Mix in the flour, a cup at a time until it is sticky.
I used my Kitchen Aid mixer and needed more than 3 ½ cups of flour.
Knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes)
I used the dough hook and let the machine take care of it.
Place round ball of dough in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough so that it is completely covered with oil.
Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm spot.
It should take about an hour to double in size. (Mine took much longer)
Punch down the dough and cut into 3 equal pieces. (I wanted 2 loaves so I created 6 pieces.)
On a floured surface roll each piece into a rope with the thickness of a thumb until each is approximately 12 inches. (Ours were slightly fatter and shorter)
Pinch 3 ropes together at one end.
Pinch 3 ropes together at the last end.
Fold both ends underneath for a neat look.
Place the braided loaf on a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Oops. In my haste, I forgot the parchment.)
Brush the top with beaten egg yolk. I added my secret ingredient- a little honey.
I always let my loaves rise a second time. This recipe only called for one rise. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 30-35 minutes.
I followed my game plan. I had the loaves rise a second time. They baked for 30 minutes.
The loaves had a slightly different taste and texture. Regardless of the recipe used, there is nothing like the taste and smell of homemade challah.
Do you have a challah recipe you would like to share?
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.
If you enjoyed reading the memoir, consider posting a review on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing and/or AskDavid.com.
Chai and Home says
How long did it take you to master making challah? Was it really “decades”?
Sandra Bornstein says
I consider myself an accomplished cook and baker. However, my attention on a particular task was oftentimes interrupted by my 4 kids. Distractions were a part of my every day life for a couple of decades. As a result, things did not always work out as planned. Baking was further complicated when we moved to CO. It took a while to adjust to the Front Range and Rocky Mountain elevations.
Yeast doughs can be challenging even if you follow all of the directions. The bread doesn’t always turn out the same.I recently watched a challah demonstration video by Joan Nathan. She candidly admitted the same.
Regardless, making bread, especially challah is a wonderful activity. I encourage parents to find time to bake with their kids.