Women are very fortunate to have an integral role in Jewish life. We have been blessed with a unique wisdom (called bina in Hebrew). This is the wisdom that enables us to have that “extra” sense and sensibility. It is also the wisdom that enables us to multitask! Just trust me on this—for a mother, multitasking is crucial, specially the last few days before Rosh Hashana!
As I make my Rosh Hashana menu this year, I can’t stop thinking about one of the most anticipated moments of the night…the moment when we dip our apple in honey?…Well, not really! I know, apples and honey are the staple, but when you like bread as much as me, you are looking forward to dipping your challah into honey! We exercise this marvelous custom until Sukkot and that is how long that pleasure will last you (unless like me you often make great excuses on how we should dip our challah into honey all year round)
I absolutely love shaping my round Challot for this special holiday! Unfortunately, a lot of people have trouble with the shaping and even with the recipe. Hence, I wanted to share with you a foolproof recipe for Challah along with various ways of shaping it. I find that water challah makes the best for honey dipping because it is not overly sweet on its own.
The following recipe can be made by hand or by using an electric mixer large enough to hold 15 cups of flour. You might be thinking, “That is so much dough!” Well, you can either freeze some of it for next week or give a few challot away…what a way to put a smile on someone’s face! The reason I am giving you a recipe for 15 cups is so that you are able to make the bracha “L’hafrish challah teruma…—[Who commanded us] to separate the challah [the portion consecrated for the Kohanim]….” Also, it is customary to give tzedaka (charity)…a few coins in a pushka will do…I just love that Yiddish word! Then, proceed to wash your hands three times each, using a washing cup, previous to making this special dough. Trust me, if I can make this, you can too!!
In Rosh Hashana it is customary to shape round challot. I teach you in the video below how to shape the round challot and many other shapes I am sure you will all enjoy.
Shana Tova! Happy New Year!
CHALLAH VIDEO PART I
CHALLAH VIDEO PAR II
Don’t be fooled by the name! Challah is not the fluffy cloud, the magical and satisfying edible sponge we savor Shabbat day. Challah is actually the piece of dough we burn because we don’t have a Temple or Kohanim to take their part of it. The challah we eat should simply be called bread…or perhaps absolutely delicious and enticing bread, that is!
Tricks of the trade
There is one gadget that I could not do without when making challah: my beloved Bosch mixer. It can handle huge amounts of dough and, while I agree that making challah by hand can be therapeutic, I find that my keeping my sanity can be therapeutic too. I definitely recommend a mixer to busy moms or anyone in need of sanity. In terms of yeast, I like using dry active yeast because it is very easy to find and store. I keep it in the freezer to make it last longer.
This dough freezes really well. Since it is a lot of dough, you can use a large clean plastic bag sprayed with oil to store it and then freeze it. You can make this dough as early as 3 days in advance and keep it in the fridge (punching it down as it grows) until you are ready to bake.
If the yeast doesn’t bubble after about 10 minutes, it’s not going to get the dough to rise. Either the yeast is too old or the water was too hot! Try again with another 3 tablespoons of fresh yeast and lukewarm water (about 110°F).
Note: The bracha provided below is said in the Sephardic community. It differs slightly from the bracha said by Ashkenazim. If you are Ashkenaz, please check in your Siddur for the proper bracha.
The separated challah must be burned, but not while the challot are baking. Some people save their bits of challah to burn with the chametz; before Pesach; follow your local minhag.
For the yeast
3 tablespoons active dry yeast (do not let yeast scare you, it just bubbles…it doesn’t bite!)
¼ cup sugar
1½ cups warm water (¾ cup boiling water mixed with ¾ cup cold water)
For the dough
1½ cups sugar
1 cup canola oil, plus additional for spraying on the dough
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups warm water, divided
1 (5–lb.) bag flour (approximately 15 to 15¼ cups flour)
For the glaze
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon oil
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the yeast mixture. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a large mixer, place the sugar, oil, salt, 2 cups water, and 7 cups flour. Mix until a smooth paste forms.
- Add the yeast mixture, which should be bubbling, to the dough. Then, add the remaining 1 cup water and 8 cups flour until a consistency like that of play dough is reached.
- Pinch off a piece the size of a lime and say this bracha: “Baruch Ata Ado-nay Elo-heinu Melech ha-olam, asher keedshanu be-mitzvotav vetzeevanu lehafrish challah teruma.” this means: “Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.” Then lift up the piece and proclaim “Hariv Zu’Challah” which means: “This is challah.” Wrap the dough in a piece of foil; it must be burned , but not while the challot are baking! Keep in mind that the doors of heaven open up at this point and you can pray for anything your heart desires.
- Spray the dough with canola oil and cover with plastic wrap.
- Let dough rise 1 hour and then punch down. Then shape the challah. You can make braids or just big balls of dough. Several small balls of dough placed together in a round baking pan that has been sprayed with oil make a pretty “pull-apart” challah. Remember that challah grows; so don’t make the balls too big. I shape 12 balls the size of limes and place them next to each other in a 9-inch baking pan.
- Place the challah on baking sheets that have been covered with parchment paper or sprayed with oil. Mix the egg and the oil and paint challot with the glaze. Let it rise another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Place into oven preheated to 350 °F for approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the size. The challot should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Wait until the challot cool before putting into plastic bags. At this point you can use them, freeze them, or give them away. You can also wrap them in foil and warm them in the oven right before “Hamotzi.”