Challah
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Shabbat at our house always includes Wendy's fresh-baked challah.

I modified this recipe slightly from Evelyn Rose’s The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook, which I highly recommend—even if she is British, and they are purveyor’s of the world’s worst cuisine. I make challah every Friday night to celebrate Shabbat. If you’ve ever eaten my challah, it may be one of the first things you mention about me to other people. (I’m not trying to brag, I’m basing this on real events.) The nice thing about this recipe is that it can be used in multiple other recipes (see below).

Traditional Shabbat Challah

  • 2 ¼ t active dry yeast (or one packet)

  • 1 1/3 c warm water (~110ºF)

  • 2 eggs

  • 3 T oil

  • ½ c sugar

  • 1 ½ t salt, coarse kosher salt works well

  • 5 to 6 c flour

Dissolve the yeast in 1/3c of the warm water with a pinch of sugar. In a separate bowl combine the remaining water, eggs, oil, sugar, salt and 2c flour. Stir with a wire whisk until smooth. When the yeast begins to bubble, add it to the dough. Continue to add flour, switching to a wooden spoon when necessary. Depending on how you measure your flour, you may need less than 6 cups. When the dough starts to come away from the bowl, turn it out on a floured work surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, working in additional flour as necessary (I’ve never had to add the entire 6 cups).

To bake the same day: place in a greased bowl and cover with a damp dish towel until doubled in size (1 ½ to 2 hours). Remove an olive sized portion of the dough to burn (if you wish to make the bread kosher motzi) and divide the remaining dough into six portions. Roll these into ropes about a foot long. Braid three ropes into each of two loaves. Place loaves on a greased baking sheet and cover with a damp dish towel for 45 minutes. Brush the tops of the loaves with egg yolk and bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes. You can also sprinkle the tops with sesame or poppy seeds.

To bake the next day: place challah in a greased plastic bag and seal. Let rise overnight up to 18hrs. in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator and let the dough reach room temperature. (This can take from 1 to 3 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If you let it go too long, the dough will smell like a distillery instead of a brewery. If that happens, don’t bother to bake it…it is ruined. Better to err on the side of slightly cool dough.) Shape the dough as described above, let rise for the 45 minutes and bake as described.

You can also work dried fruit or spices into your challah to make it more festive. A trick I have for improving the texture of dried fruit is to boil it for a minute, then drain it well on paper towels. For moister fruit (such as dried cherries), the fruit can be soaked for a few hours in a flavored liqueur such as Triple Sec.

Yields 2 loaves

 

Whole Wheat Challah

For a more nutritious version, increase the yeast to 4 ½ t (two packets), increase the water to 1 ½ c, and replace part of the flour with whole grain (I like to use 3 ½ c whole wheat to 1 ½ c white). You can also replace the sugar with honey, but this can change the texture of the bread slightly to be doughier.

 

For that leftover challah:

Challah French Toast (for every three slices of bread)

            1 egg, ¼ c milk, ¼ t vanilla, dash cinnamon, dash nutmeg

Combine ingredients with a whisk. Dip challah slices into batter and fry in a little butter until golden brown.

Breadpudding (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

Nothing says Midwest comfort food more to me than a bread pudding. One summer at my Nanee’s farm, we tried a different recipe for bread pudding and baked rice pudding ever single day I was there. I serve this one with vanilla sauce or whiskey sauce (depending on the company). You can find sauce recipes in almost any cookbook.

  • 4 eggs, beaten

  • 2 ¼ c milk

  • ½ c sugar

  • 1 T vanilla

  • 1 t citrus zest (optional)

  • 1/2 t choice of spice (cinnamon or cardamom are good choices, though you can combine either of these with a little cloves or nutmeg)

  • 4 to 6 c challah, cut into 1 inch cubes

  • 1/3 c dried fruit (raisins, blueberries or cherries either boiled for 1 minute or soaked in liqueur for several hours then drained)

Whisk together everything but the bread and fruit. Toss this sauce with the bread and fruit. Transfer to a greased 2 qt. baking dish and bake at 350ºF for about 45mins. or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Serves 4-5

 

Bagels

Bagels can also be made from challah dough. I will not lie. They are a total pain in the butt to make.  

Use the challah recipe. Add the spices and or dried fruits of your choice. Increase the flour to 6 ¾ c. I measure this amount exactly, as bagels get their chewy denseness from the extra flour worked in. You’ll feel like you are adding too much flour, but that is just right. It should be pretty difficult to work in the last two cups. Spices and liquid flavorings should be added with the eggs and oil. Dried fruits can be added then or kneaded in after the first rise.

After kneading the dough, cover and let rise 1 ½ to 2 hours. Then, roll the dough out about ½ to ¾ inch thick. Cover with a tamp dishtowel and let rise for 15 minutes. Use a biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds (for sandwich bagels, I use a 3 1/2 inch cutter; for mini bagels I use a 2 inch cutter—they both bake the same amount of time). Use your thumb and forefinger to pierce a hole in the center of each round. I usually slip the round of dough down to my second knuckle and spin it around until a ring forms. Let the bagels stand for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring about 3 to 4 inches of water to a boil in a pot. The wider the pot, the better. I have a 12 inch wide, 5 inch deep pot I use just for bagels. Drop bagels into the boiling water. They will begin to float up to the top after a couple of seconds. Make sure you don’t over-crowd them. Set a timer for two minutes. After one minute, use tongs or a slotted spoon to turn the bagels over. At the end of the second minute, lift the bagels out with a slotted spoon and place on a wooden board to drain for a minute or two. Transfer the drained bagels to a greased cookie sheet. Brush the tops with egg  yolk and sprinkle with desired toppings. Bake at 500ºF for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure the bottoms don’t burn. You may also need to turn the baking sheet once or twice so that they all brown evenly. Let cool.

My recommended bagel flavors:

Cherry VanillaSoak ~1c dried cherries in amaretto for several hours. Drain. Add the cherries and 1 to 2 T vanilla extract to the bagel dough when you add the eggs and oil.

Cinnamon RaisinSoak ~1 c raisins in rum for several hours (alternatively boil the raisins for a minute). Drain. Add the raisins and 1 T ground cinnamon to the bagel dough when you add the eggs and oil.

BlueberrySoak ~1c dried blueberries in Triple Sec for several hours. Drain. Add the blueberries with 1t ground cardamom and 2t orange zest to the bagel dough when you add the eggs and oil.

Whole WheatPrepare the whole wheat challah dough as described above, but increase the flour to 6 ¾ c (as for bagels). I top these bagels with poppy seeds (white poppy seeds available in Indian grocers add a peppery flavor), sesame seeds, or coarse salt (my personal favorite).