Thursday, September 17, 2009

Let’s Give a Hoot and a Holla for this Challah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is just around the corner. To celebrate, I made 8 loaves of this comforting, traditional egg-bread known as “challah.”

The smell of warm homemade bread just fills the whole house and makes everyone smile! Crisp and browned on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside, filled with raisins and topped with seeds, this bread deserves some hoots and hollas'!

Growing up, my mom’s best friend would invite my family over for dinner and her homemade challah bread was always a huge hit! I dedicate this post to her for inspiring me to make yummy, yummy Jewish food!

Usually when I make challah bread, I throw all of my ingredients in my bread machine and let it do all the kneading for me. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

This time, however, I had no bread machine and kneaded the dough with my super human arm strength. Actually, it was very easy and came out better than my bread machine challah because I could control how much it really “needed to be kneaded (hehe)!”

Here is some dough in the process of rising! So light and fluffly!

In order for challah to be challah and not just egg-bread, you must tear off a small walnut-size piece of dough and say a blessing. Ok, repeat after me:

“Baruch ata Adonoy, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kidishanu bimitzvo'sav, vitzivanu lihafrish challah min ha-issa.

Blessed are You God, King of the Universe, Who made us holy with His commandments, and commanded us to separate challah from the dough.”

Got it? Ok. Thought so. Good.

My 60+ housemates gobbled these loaves up!

Also on the menu this evening was:

-The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella (chicken with prunes, olives, artichoke hearts, oregano, and white wine)
-Beet salad with shallots, feta, and red wine vinegar
-Hearty bean soup with barley, kale, and tomatoes
-Sautéed green beans

Boy am I stuffed! My belly is indeed happy!

Hoot n’ Holla Challah (Egg Bread)
Adapted from SmittenKitchen

Time: about 1 hour, plus 2 1/2 hours’ rising
Yield: 2 loaves (multiply the recipe by 4 if cooking for 60 hungry college students)

1 ½ packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus ½ cup sugar
½ cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs (1 is used at the end for egg wash)
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup raisins per challah, if using
Poppy and/or sesame seeds for sprinkling.

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 ¾ cups lukewarm water.

2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.

3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth (~ 5-10 minutes). Clean out the bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size (Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150°F then turned off). Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

4. To make a 4-braid challah, take half the dough and form it into 4 balls (take off a little tiny piece for the blessing and bake it with your loaves but DO NOT eat it). With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide. Place the 4 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. (***At this point, if you decide to use raisins or chocolate chips, you can put them into the middle of each strand, pinching the strands closed to make sure the raisins are not too exposed to the outside).

4 ½. Move the outside right strand under 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it over one to the right. Take the outside left strand and move it under 2. Move second strand from the right over one to the left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. Tuck the ends underneath. Make a second loaf the same way.

5. Grease a cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and cornmeal. Place braided loaves on the cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between. Spray saran wrap with cooking spray and cover the loaves. Let rise another hour.

6. Preheat oven to 375°F and brush loaves with beaten egg. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using (I HIGHLY recommend the seeds).

7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. I like my challah bread served with a sprinkle of salt and some roasted garlic! Mmmm I love being Jewish!

Just for kicks, this is me 3 years ago...doing the challah baking thing!

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