Making Challah

No, not yet. There are plenty of people who make challah on Thursday – but not me. In the winter, I’ll mix the dough and let it sit rising overnight, but in the summer, when the days are long, it’s all for Friday. I keep promising to post the recipe I use – so finally, here it is.

To be fair, I have to give most of the credit to Lauren, Elie’s wife, because it is mostly hers (and I think her mother’s now that I think of it). I changed it a little. I’m going to post it in Israeli measurements because that’s what I know.

Step 1: Take one package of yeast (I use the 50 g. small bags). I sprinkle it with sugar – no, I don’t know how much – but I put a light covering over the yeast. Add 2 cups of warm water and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

  • I sometimes add the full 5 cups that go into this recipe. No idea if there is a reason not to do this.
  • I’m not sure you have to let it sit at all – but it works for me.
Step 2: Pour in the following ingredients – no particular order, though I find I always add the flour first:

  • 2 kilo of whole wheat flour (I prefer the 70%)
  • 1 kilo of white flour (this is a compromise ’cause my kids would be happy if I made it all with white flour)
  • 1generous cup of honey (that means, spill a little extra in and watch the kids smile)
  • 1 cup of sugar (I keep meaning to try brown sugar)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup of oil (I use Canola and you can make this generous too, if you want).
  • 2 tablespoons of salt (yes, it’s a lot, but it works – and you’re not supposed to let the salt touch the yeast)
  • 3 cups of water (unless you added the full 5 cups to the yeast in step 1)
Mix it all very well and continue kneading it for several minutes. You’ll see and feel the difference quickly in the dough. It will be smooth and have a consistent look and feel to it.
When you’ve finished kneading the dough, put it in a large oiled pot to rise. I take a minute, clean out the pot (or bowl), oil it and then return the dough to the pot for a few hours. At some point, about an hour or so (even 2 hours later), I punch the dough down and let it rise again.
When it’s risen nicely, I take it out of the pot onto the table. There are many beautiful, spiritual things you can do while making challah. Many people pray for the safety and health of their loved ones; many pray for the health and recovery of sick people; that a single person will meet their intended; and on and on. 
Amira has a laminated challah page that has a special prayer for each of the items you add, to ask God for blessings related to the flour, the water, the oil, etc. What I will say, beyond the above, is that after the challah rises, it is time to separate a small amount of the dough.  This is called taking challah, and involves separating a small piece, saying a blessing, and then burning that piece or disposing of it in various ways. 
Once that’s done, you begin separating the huge amount of dough I just had you make (really, feel free to make less). The above amount can make about 8 nice size challot (challahs). 
I sometimes freeze the dough after shaping it and then wrapping it VERY well. When you wrap it well, it will often defrost, rise and bake as if it were freshly made.
After you shape it – typically in braids involving 3, 4, 6, or even 8 strands, you let it rise again. Then you brush the top with egg; sprinkle with zatar (hyssop), sesame seeds, lightly fried onions, etc. and bake for about 25-30 minutes at 165 degrees Celsius. And there you have Lauren’s recipe…

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