Heather says: see the end for a note
Now that September is nigh, relief from the insanity of summer is in sight. Kids go back to school, vacations cease, and life gets back to normal until the seemingly just around the corner winter holiday season. Assuming you’re not Jewish, that is. And if you are Jewish, getting the kids to school on time is the last thing on your mind because you know that September is the beginning of what feels like a month of constant holidays.
Since Jewish holidays are based on the Hebrew calendar, the holidays are on different dates in any given year. This year, September kicks off with Rosh Hashana, followed—a mere nine days later—by Yom Kippur. But that’s not all, folks! This year September is also the time for the week-long Sukkot, which winds down with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Just in case you were counting, that’s 12 days of holidays in a 30-day month. And, as with most holidays, they all call for a whole lot of cooking (well, except for that pesky fast on Yom Kippur).
I have no idea how they do it, but year after year, all the balboste don their Super Woman capes and bang out dish after dish without breaking a sweat. Briskets are braised and served up with tzimmes, an obligatory kugel will appear from the oven looking so delicious you want to eat it then, and there (who cares about burning your tongue?), dry matzo will magically turn into floating balls, and of course, there will be challah—a bread rightfully loved by Jews and Gentiles alike.
Challah (the “ch” is guttural; think “holla!”) is a rich, eggy, slightly sweet bread similar to brioche. It is traditionally braided, but it can also be baked in a loaf pan to use as sandwich bread. Challah makes wonderful French toast, excellent bread puddings, and is awesome eaten out of hand. As a bonus, it’s an excellent cure for “how did all of these eggs get in my refrigerator?” syndrome.
All of that to say… Happy challah-days, everyone! Now let’s get baking.
P.S. Shanah Tovah to those ringing in the new year!
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 + 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 + 2 cups of bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 whole eggs, divided
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 – 2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the egg wash:
- 1 whole egg
- 1 teaspoon water
Step One: Combine ½ cup warm water with 2 teaspoons yeast in the bowl of the stand mixer. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the water and yeast. Let sit until the yeast is foamy, about five minutes.
Step Two: Add 1 cup of bread flour to the yeast mixture, using your unattached dough hook as a “spoon” to combine the mixture. Mix in 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks, then stir in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Step Three: Once the dough is a sticky, gloopy mess, attach the dough hook to the mixer. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 – 2 teaspoons kosher salt to the mess, followed by 1 cup of bread flour.
Start the mixer on “stir” and let the dough mix until well combined, about 5 minutes; the dough will be sticky at this point. Stop the mixer, then add the remaining 1 cup of bread flour.
Restart the mixer on “stir” and let the dough knead until it passes the “poke test” described in Step Five of this post. When the dough cleans the side of the bowl and passes the poke test, turn it out onto the counter and form it into a ball.
Grease your mixing bowl with vegetable oil (or nonstick spray) before returning the dough to the bowl to rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
Step Four: When the dough is doubled, punch it down. Recover the bowl and let the dough rise until it doubles again. After the second rise, punch the dough down again and form it into a ball.
Make an egg wash by combining 1 whole egg and 1 teaspoon water.
Step Five A (braided challah): Divide the ball into six (or three) evenly sized pieces. Roll the pieces into 12 inch long ropes, then roll the ropes in bread flour to prevent sticking.
Pinch the ends of the ropes together to form something that looks like a six-bodied snake.
To make a six-stranded braid, pick up the outermost left rope and place it over the two ropes to its right.
Then, guide the same dough rope under the middle rope.
Finally, place the rope over the outermost two right ropes. (My mantra: over two, under one, over two.)
Repeat the process, always starting with the outermost left rope of dough. (You can also just make your standard issue three-stranded braid.)
When you have no more dough to braid, squeeze the ends together and tuck them under the body of the loaf.
Place the loaf on a parchment- or nonstick baking mat-lined baking sheet (make sure the edges are tucked!), then brush with egg wash. Cover with greased plastic wrap and preheat the oven to 375 F.
Step Five B (sandwich challah): Roll the dough up as described in the sandwich bread post. Place the prepared dough into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, slash the dough as described in the previously linked sandwich bread post then brush with egg wash.
Loosely cover the pan with a greased piece of plastic wrap and preheat the oven to 375 F.
Step Six: Once the oven is hot and the dough has risen for 20 to 30 minutes, remove the plastic wrap and brush with another layer of egg wash.
Place either loaf in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Let cool on a rack before cutting (or just tear off a hunk and have at it).
Makes 1 braided or 9×5-inch loaf. L’chaim!
Michele Newell is a housewife turned blogger turned Home Ec 101 contributor. You can read her near-daily ramblings at Dreams Unreal.
Michelle had this post finished in a timely fashion, and it was too good not to use. I was the one remiss in getting it published. I want to thank her and all of you for your support during this time. I thought that for sure, I’d be feeling more human by now. Since we weren’t close, I thought I wouldn’t take it as hard as I did. I’m finding the opposite to be true. The guilt and grief are still as real as they were the day of the funeral, only now it’s time to begin to return to normal. I take great comfort in what Bruce Sallan told me on the phone the other day as we spoke about an upcoming event on suicide prevention: This too shall pass.
I also want to note that together with PostSecret, the Weiskopf family, and Team Trey, we managed to raise $50,000 to keep Iamalive for another year. To all who participated, I say thank you, from the bottom of my very broken heart, thank you. And I wish we weren’t coming together over something terrible.