I have been making this particular recipe for over 35 years, since my daughter Shira was in pre-school and Rosa, one of the Moms, shared it with me. I used to make challah fairly regularly when the kids were growing up, but then Norm started making it, and I pretty much stopped, other than for the High Holidays. Over the past few weeks, since this pandemic began, I have begun baking again. challah, cinnamon buns, bread, chocolate chip skillet cookies, biscotti, brownie meringues, and that’s just the baking. We are eating well, maybe too well. That’s my way of coping, and clearly it’s the same for many others. Two weeks ago I did my first challah Zoom call with my daughter and some friends who also wanted to begin baking challah.
My daughter encouraged me to update this blog and repost. if you haven’t made challah, this is a good, basic recipe. This past Shabbat I added food coloring to the strands so they had a watercolor effect. I would love to hear how you are filling your time, and if you are baking and want to share your recipes, we can post them here. If you do use this recipe, please send photos of what your Challah looks like.
I try and find inspiration wherever I can find it. I heard Julie Andrews interviewed and she shared something her Mom use to say to her during the war. “Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” Stay home and stay safe.
January 21, 2010
The scent of dough rising in the kitchen can create so many associations. It can bring us back to the bakeries we frequented as children, holding on to our mothers’ hands, and eating the sprinkle cookie given to us by the woman behind the bakery counter. It can remind us of a flour covered apron worn by a grandmother making Challah. My own mother would make blueberry buns from blueberries that I collected with my sister near my Tanta Maricia’s house in Lakewood, New Jersey. There is something special about working with yeast, it has that distinctive lifelike quality and scent, always recognizable, like an old friend in the kitchen. My husband has recently started making home-made bagels, hazelnut flutes and artisanal French breads. They are wonderful, wheatey, warm and yeasty.
January, even in California, is a perfect time to bake. A warm kitchen is so inviting so go ahead and create a memory that your children will cherish. The scent of yeast.
Here is my tried and true recipe for challah. Be creative and add some dried cranberries, some chocolate chips, some dried figs or dates and most of all, have fun.
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
3 tsp table salt
¾ cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
½ cup cold water
2 packages dried yeast or 4 1/2 teaspoons
1/3 cup warm water
7-8 cups all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten for brushing challah.
Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water along with a pinch of sugar, and proof for several minutes till bubbly. Put oil, salt and sugar in a large bowl, add 1 cup boiling water and stir till sugar is dissolved. Then add ½ cup cold water and stir. In a small bowl beat 3 eggs and add to cooled oil mixture. Then add yeast and stir. Add up to 7 cups of flour, one at a time, and stir after each cup. Add only as much flour as you need to get the right consistency (firm enough to form a ball without being too sticky). Put dough on floured board and knead for about 10 – 15 minutes. Surface of dough should have a sheen when ready.
Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and rotate so the entire ball of dough is coated , then cover and let rise until doubled, about two hours. Punch down and knead gently for several minutes. Divide and make into any shape you like and place on parchment paper covered baking sheet, lightly greased. Brush with beaten egg. Let stand for about 45 minutes, or till doubled in size. Makes 2 large challahs or four medium sized.
Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until brown and also tap bottom of Challah to see if you get a hollow sound.