Last month, a reader had a question about Challah for
Rabbi Dan. The recipe should clarify any issues with a bit more detail than he
could give in his column. This formula is particularly nice for Rosh Hashana,
since it echoes the apples and honey which will be used for the special
Kiddush. It is offered this month rather than next to give any new bakers
time to practice their skill with dough. These loaves may be made ahead and
frozen for use at any time.
APPLE AND HONEY CHALLAH (Pareve)
A Fitting Welcome for The Sabbath Bride.
All of life is full of happy expectations on Friday. Our best
clothes are ready and waiting for us to shower and don them. There are clean
shiny surfaces and freshly vacuumed floors. Early in the day the table is set
with gleaming white linen and the good china. The shiny candlesticks stand tall
and wait their turn to begin the festivities.
Our noses are aware that it is almost time. The vapors of soup
and a roast chicken or brisket blend with the tang of lemon oil on the furniture
against the background of the most luxurious perfume known to man, the scent of
fresh baked challah. Though Mama is sure to dab a bit of something from
Paris behind her ears, on this night, she has created the aroma of heaven with
This is a challah worthy of the Sabbath bride. As
befits her status, it is flavored with Saffron, the most exquisite of spices.
Let us welcome her with candlelight and singing.
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1 teaspoon crumbled Saffron, or
1 teaspoon turmeric mixed with 1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup honey
2 1/2 tablespoons fast-rising dry yeast
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
7 cups bread flour (approx.)
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder (optional)
1 tablespoon crnstarch, mixed with 1/3 cup water
1 cup white raisins, plumped (optional)
If you are going to use raisins, place them in a small bowl with enough boiling
water to cover, and set them aside to plump.
In a large, glass measuring cup, combine the honey, saffron or turmeric-paprika
mixture, and apple juice. Heat for one minute in the microwave, and then allow
to come to lukewarm temperature. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the flour and the yeast.
Set aside until it is foaming and growing. This step is called proofing the
Whisk the eggs and yolks with the vegetable oil, and add to
the yeast mixture.
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the baking powder, salt, and
flour. The baking powder makes a loaf with a lighter texture than one which only
uses yeast, but is not necessary, if you would like the challah more
firm. Now we need to combine the dry ingredients with the wet ones, and there
are three ways to do that.
The first and easiest one is to put the dry ingredients in the
bowl of your food processor, pour in the wet ones, then pulse the dough until it
holds together in a ball around the blade. Continue to pulse for one minute
The second way is to fit your electric mixer with the dough
hooks, put the dry ingredients in the bowl, then the wet ones, mix at a slow
speed until the dough holds together in a ball, and continue to mix for 2 more
The third way is to make a well in the center of the dry
ingredients in their bowl, pour in the wet ones and mix the dough by hand until
it becomes elastic to your touch.
The end texture of the dough, no matter what the method should
be very slightly sticky. Depending on ambient humidity, this dough will absorb
up to 2 more cups of bread flour, mixed in a bit at a time, but do not make it
too dry or your bread will be dry. The stickiness will disappear after the first
At this point, mix in the raisins, if you are going to use
them. Form the dough into a ball in a large bowl. Spray the top of the ball with
a light coating of vegetable oil, cover the bowl with cellophane wrap or waxed
paper, and set aside in a warm place (about 80 degrees) for about an hour to an
hour and a half, or until doubled in size. The top of the refrigerator is
usually warm enough, or a sunny windowsill will work.
An alternative method is to put the bowl in the refrigerator
overnight, where it will rise very slowly and should be doubled by the next
morning when you remove it and allow it to come to room temperature before the
When the dough has doubled in size, uncover it and push your
hand into it gently, until it collapses. This step is called “Punching Down the
Dough,” but do not be rough about it. Remove a small piece of the dough, at
least the size of an apricot, and set it on a bit of tinfoil. Put the foil on
the floor of the oven, where it will burn. No bread is kosher, unless you
perform this mitzvah, which is called Taking Challah. Challah is
the word for the burnt offering, not the loaf itself, and must be performed when
making any bread, regardless of purpose. If you make a recipe which uses more
than 7 cups of flour, you must also say the bracha which is at the end of
Now we are ready to shape the loaves. These directions are for
making two large and two small braided loaves, the usual supplies needed for
Shabbas. If you are baking this bread for the New Year, you may wish to
place the dough in round baking pans, since many serve round bread at that time
to symbolize the circle of life. The shape of a loaf is irrelevant for ritual
purposes, and is only a matter of custom.
Oil two baking sheets. Remove about one quarter of the dough
and set it aside.
Divide the remaining dough in half, and then divide each half
into thirds, making six pieces. Roll each of the pieces between your hands,
until they form strands about a foot long. Take three of the strands and place
them on a baking sheet. Pinch one end of each together, and then form a braid,
pinching the other ends together when the braid is finished. Tuck the pinched
ends underneath the ends of the loaves so that they don’t show.
Repeat with the other three strands using the other baking
sheet. You will now repeat that process using the quarter of the dough you had
set aside earlier, making two tiny braided loaves and placing them on the sheets
at the end of the large loaves. Spray the loaves lightly with vegetable oil and
cover with cellophane wrap or waxed paper. Allow the loaves to rise again until
they double in bulk.
Using a pastry brush, cover the risen loaves with a thin layer
of the cornstarch and water mixture. Place in an oven that has been preheated to
350 degrees. When placing the sheets, make sure that the small loaves are near
the door of the oven. After 30 minutes, open the oven door and quickly remove
the two small loaves with a spatula. Do not try to use your hands, as you will
Close the oven again and allow the two larger loaves to finish
baking for another 30 minutes. They are done when they area rich golden brown
and give a hollow sound when thumped with your finger. No matter how wonderful
they smell, allow the loaves to cool on a rack for a minimum of 30 minutes
before cutting. The fibers are very fragile when loaves first come from the oven
and will turn to mushy paste if they do not have time to firm whilst cooling.
Special Notes: The burnt offering should be wrapped in a bit
more foil and discarded respectfully. It is not to be eaten. The bracha
for a larger batch is this:
Boruch atoh adonoy,
Elohaynu melech ho-olom,
Asher kidshonu b’mitzvosov
V’tzivonu l’hafrish challahmin ha-isah.
2002 Eddy Robey
Excerpts from It's Not Just Chicken Soup.
hosted by the Gantseh Megillah
to the recipe list.