I bake Challah for Shabbos. It is a real treat for our Shabbos table and it makes the house smell heavenly as it bakes.
The mitzvah (commandment) of Challah is especially designed for women and is a privilege and opportunity for special prayer.
I use my Kitchen Aid mixer for kneading the dough. Since it cannot accommodate the full five pounds of flour, I use two bowls, each with half of the ingredients of the final dough. Once kneaded, I combine the dough for rising. After the dough has finished rising, a small piece of the challah is separated. If the dough has been fashioned from at least five pounds of flour, a brocha (blessing) is recited before separating the challah piece. A personal prayer may be inserted at this point.
Baking challah nourishes the body and the soul.
INGREDIENTS FOR EACH KITCHEN AID BOWL
(I use two bowls for a total of five pounds of flour)
1 pkg or 2 tablespoons yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons for yeast
pinch of salt
2 1/2 pounds (6 cups) of bread or high-gluten flour
optional egg wash (a bit of egg mixed with a few drops of warm water)
sesame and poppy seeds (optional)
Mix yeast, warm water and 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Let rise until yeast is bubbly and foamy. (If yeast does not bubble and foam, yeast is not active and must be discarded. Start yeast, water and sugar mixture with new yeast).
Add eggs, oil, sugar and salt and whisk together until combined.
Add flour and knead just until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a ball.
Add a bit of flour to remove the dough from the bowl. If preparing in two separate bowls, combine dough for rising.
Let rise in a warm area of kitchen for 90 minutes. Once the dough has finished rising, place all of the dough before you.
If a total of five pounds of flour was used, recite the bracha.
ברוך אתה י-י אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה
Ba-Ruch A-tah A-do-noi Elo-hai-nu Me-lech Ha-O-Lam A-sher Ke-di-sha-nu Be-mitz-vo-sav Ve-tzi-va-nu Le-Haf-rish Cha-lah
Blessed are You, our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.
Now, separate a walnut-size piece of challah and an additional personal prayer may be recited.
The separated piece of challah is kept separate from the rest of the dough and is either wrapped in two layers and carefully discarded or is wrapped in foil and baked until burnt.
Brush the baking pans with oil, spray with cooking spray or cover with parchment paper.
Form the challah, using a light dusting of flour to keep each strand of dough from getting too sticky::
Braid three or six strands and place in loaf pan
Form into pull-apart challahs by combining multiple balls of challah
Form into rolls by knotting a single strand of dough.
For a shiny surface, brush with egg wash. Let rise for an additional 30 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees in preheated oven, watching carefully not to overbake.
Rolls take about 15-20 minutes
Medium challahs take about 30 minutes
Large and pull-apart challahs take about 40-45 minutes
For challahs, turn off oven and keep in warm oven for 15 more minutes.
For challah rolls, remove from oven as soon as they are ready.
Substitute half of flour in each Kitchen Aid bowl with whole wheat flour
Sprinkle freshly minced garlic or a mixture of your favorite minced herbs on top of egg wash before baking
I use an inside out brown paper bag for preparing the challah braids. I open a brown paper bag by cutting or ripping it open. I use the inside that has no print and dust it with bench flour. When the challahs have been braided and moved to a baking pan, I simply roll the used paper bag and discard. This makes the clean-up so simple.
Photo and baking credits to Leah Respler