You may have seen challah before. It’s a special braided bread that is typically eaten on Shabbat and other Jewish holidays. Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest on Saturdays that is usually celebrated with festive meals, the first taking place Friday night. Shabbat is a time to relax and recharge, and we certainly can use that right now! Whenever you do have challah, it’s absolutely delicious and actually relatively easy to make. I recently participated in an annual event with my mom and other women from all over the world called the Great AZ Challah Bake put on by Shabbat Project Arizona. This was the seventh year of the event, and there were a ton of attendees, people of all walks of life broadcasting in their kitchens, rolling dough and listening to educational sessions and live music. It’s usually held in-person, but this year it was all virtual with Zoom sessions for beginning and advanced bakers and even a gluten free room. The ingredients to make challah were provided for free and included All-purpose flour, a packet of instant yeast, salt and pure cane sugar. I’ll share the full recipes below as well for a regular and gluten free loaf. Also provided were a book on Shabbat and matches and candles for saying the blessings on Shabbat.
There are different ways to make challah. The standard recipe below and the one we used does not call for eggs, but many recipes do include them. Additionally, an egg wash is often brushed on the dough prior to baking to add a golden sheen. Some challahs contain raisins and saffrons with poppy, sesame or anise seeds sprinkled on top. Feel free to make your own adjustments and additions!
Ingredients for 1 large or 2 small challahs:
Water : 1 cup
Yeast : 2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 packet
Sugar : 1/4 cup honey & 1/4 cups sugar
Oil : 1/4 cup (+1/8 cup more)
Flour : 3 cups (+more till the dough is not sticky)
Salt : 1 teaspoon
OPTIONAL: Pareve Chocolate Spread - Hashahar
Add yeast, a teaspoon of sugar and warm water in a bowl. Mix 3 times (more mixing will disturb the action of the yeast) and allow yeast to bubble.
Add the rest of the sugar, oil, honey and mix to one consistency. Add ½ cup of flour, mix, then add the salt. Continue to add ½ cup of flour at a time. Please mix slowly so the dough won't get hard. You want the dough to be soft and flexible. It can be a little sticky but not sticking to your hands.
Cover the bowl and wait till it rises about 30 to 60 minutes. Suggested to cover with wet cloth. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Braid the challah and brush it with an egg wash mixed with honey. Put your challah in the oven and after one minute, turn the temperature down to 350. For small challahs, check after 15 minutes; it should take about 20 minutes. For one big challah, check after 20 minutes; it usually takes about 25-30 minutes to finish baking.
If you would like to freeze the challah, wrap it with parchment paper then with foil. When you want to eat the challah, defrost for a couple of hours before Shabbat. Then half an hour before Shabbat starts, put it in the oven for 10 minutes on 350 degrees - your house will smell as if you made it right then.
Gluten Free Recipe:
2.5 cups GF Quick Oats (if Rolled Oats need to mix more to crush more)
1 Cup Tapioca Flour
½ Cup Sorghum Four
¼ cup Raw Honey
1 package yeast
2 cups water – 125 degrees
¼ cup Olive oil
3 tsp Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp Himalayan pink Salt
1 TBL Xanthan Gum
2 large pasture eggs
Tools to have on hand: Candy thermometer, silicone Challah or Chalet baking mold, whisk
In a big mixing bowl Whisk together Oats, Tapioca Flour and Yeast. Add Honey and mix again, add water, Mix lots more with whisk. Add Sorghum Four, Olive oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Salt, Xanthan Gum, eggs. Let rise 1.5 hours. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Lightly Oil Silicone Challah or Chalet Mold pans and put on parchment lined cookie sheets. Fill pan with batter and let sit for five minutes (ideally). Bake 40 -45 minutes till the top (really the bottom) is light brown. Let cool very briefly before flipping onto cookie rack to cool slightly.
Notes: Reheats lovely wrapped in aluminum at 350 10min or more.
Bonus information: If you don't want to make your own challah, check out Chompie's.. Chompie's sells challah in its bakeries at multiple locations in Chandler, Glendale, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe; www.chompies.com. Kitchen18 also sells challah. The kosher restaurant is located at 10211 N Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale; 480.284.6001; www.thekitchen18.com.