I’m sure you’ve heard of Challah (Cha-la), the traditional Jewish bread served on the Sabbath and holidays. Braided bread. Lots of those around in different countries and cultures. This one is easy to make and goes great with stews and other cold weather meals.
Aside from simplicity, why would you want to make Challah? Lots of choices. You’re going to the synagogue’s Wednesday night potluck. You thought Monica Lewinski was really, really cute. Braids bring up fond memories of your fifth grade girlfriend. Or, Challah has the tender sweetness of your ninth grade girlfriend, who was also easy to make.
Thanks, Bob, but I think I’ll go with number five: Challah’s such a crowd pleaser, the women will want to kiss the cook. I say, let ‘em!
One thing different about Challah from most braided breads, is that it’s parve. Rabbis may call me on this, but to me, Kosher is divided into three areas: meat, dairy, and neither. For now let’s keep it simple. Parve is the ‘neither.’ So in the case of Challah, the bread is made without butter, milk, or any meat products. How about eggs??? Also parve.
Another thing, Challah is a European Jewish tradition. Middle Eastern and Spanish-background Jews use unleavened bread on the Sabbath, something more like pita.
Lots of variations. 12 braids, 6 braids, 3 braids. Sometimes raisins or nuts, sometimes whole wheat flour.
Enough chitchat. I go simple. No raisins or nuts. 3 braids. My recipe, stolen unabashedly and without shame from a former associate, is also very simple. Throw the ingredients in a food processor. Put the dough in a greased plastic bag and let it rise.
Wait a sec. You probably want to know the ingredients. Ever helpful am I!
3 1/2 Cups flour (I use organic, unbleached.)
1 package yeast (If you can get fresh yeast, it’s even better. Use half a cube)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Cup warm water (95ºF or 35ºC)
Turmeric, as desired to make the bread yellow (Not too much! Turmeric is bitter!)
Dissolve the yeast in warm water (in the food processor). Add sugar, salt, and two cups of flour. Mix well, using the dough blade. Add egg and oil and mix again. If you want the bread to have a yellow glow, add a few pinches of Turmeric at this point. Add the remaining flour and knead for ten minutes. The dough pulls away from the sides of the food processing bowl, and has an elastic feel.
Place the dough in a greased plastic bag and allow it to rise. In cooler weather, I put the bag in my oven and leave the oven light on.
When the dough is doubled, about an hour or two, take it out of the bag and form three balls. Pull and roll each ball into a long strand (about 15-18 inches long).
Pinch the strands together at one end, braid them and then pinch the final end.
Put the loaf in a long bread pan and let it rise again. If you want the bread to have a shiny look, brush the braided loaf thinly with a beaten egg. Sprinkle on sesame seeds for an extra touch.
|Same loaf after the second rising. Note the difference in size from the photo above.|
Bake at 375ºF or 190ºC for 25 minutes, or until the top is a medium golden brown.
Talk about delicious cultural diversity! Mazel Tov!