challah

Lullabye Bread

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A few years ago Ed and I were in Berlin and checked out KaDeWe, the city's famous department store that has the biggest food halls in Europe and maybe in the world. They sell every kind of food you can imagine. Gorgeous cakes and pastries. Bountiful, beautiful fruit. Different kinds of eggs, dairy products, chocolates. 

It was all familiar. Pineapples. Peaches. Sachertorte. Macarons. Freshly butchered chickens, and so on.

We stopped counting the different kinds of sausages after we reached 100. Apparently they sell sausages from every region in Germany. 

But we were there for lookin', not cookin' -- so, in the two hours we walked through this place it was more like a visit to an art gallery. 

But then we came to the bakery and there, in the case, was a beautiful, braided loaf called Hefezopf, which is like a challah, but with raisins and almonds.

It was a vision. All at once my mind filled with memories of a lovely shabbat challah mixed with grandma singing rozhinkes mit mandlen, that hauntingly beautiful, classic Yiddish lullabye.

Oh my. My eyes well up even thinking about it.

This was something I had to try at home and get right.

I did, but it took several tries. At first I used my challah recipe and sweetened it a bit, but that just tasted like sweeter challah. The consistency wasn't right.

After doing some research about Hefezopf I realized it was more like brioche -- dense, buttery, dairy-laden, so I started tinkering with my brioche recipe.

Yes. 

A taste is worth a thousand looks.

Try this. It's called Hefezopf, but like to call it Lullabye Bread.

Lullabye Bread (HEFEZOPF)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 2-inch strips of lemon peel
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour, approximately
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped almonds, optional

 

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, butter and sugar cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and the mixture is hot. Set aside to cool to lukewarm (about 105-110 degrees). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and whisk the ingredients to dissolve the yeast. Let rest for about 5 minutes or until thick bubbles form. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Remove the cinnamon stick pieces and lemon peel from the yeast mixture and pour the liquid into the mixer bowl. Add one egg and mix the dough with a dough hook for about 2 minutes. Add the raisins, if used, and mix for another 2 minutes or so, or until the dough is smooth. If the dough is sticky, add more flour as needed. (Kneading can be done in a food processor or by hand.) Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and cut it into 3 equal pieces. Working on a floured surface, roll the pieces to make strands of about 12-inches long. Braid the strands and place them on the baking sheet. Beat the remaining egg with one teaspoon water and brush the egg wash over the surface of the braid. Sprinkle with almonds, if used. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Makes one bread

Chocolate Challah Bread Pudding

I usually don't have leftover challah, even when I make my giant size recipe

But for Yom Kippur I make TWO giant size challahs, one for the pre-fast dinner and one for break-the-fast.

So, for the kids, there's usually a hunk or two left for French toast.

But this year I had bits and pieces left over: crusts from the pieces that went into the French toast (for the kids who don't like crust). And a few pieces of "insides" left from the grownups who picked off some of the crust.

I hate throwing food away, especially something as delicious as challah.

Waste not, want not.

I put all the leftover pieces into a bowl and made it into chocolate bread pudding.

You can't go wrong mixing challah, milk, sugar and chocolate.

 

Chocolate Challah Pudding

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 12 ounces leftover challah,including crusts, (about 7-8 loosely packed
  •                                                                         cups of small pieces)
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Butter a large, deep baking dish or (8-cup) souffle dish. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool. Break the bread into pieces into a bowl. Pour the milk over the bread and let it soak for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally so all pieces of bread absorb some milk. In the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the eggs with the sugar for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla extract. Stir in the melted chocolate. Mix in the bread-milk mixture. Pour the bread mixture into the prepared baking dish. Place the dish inside a larger pan. Add enough water to the outer pan to come up one-inch of the sides of the baking dish. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Makes 8 servings

 

Challah for a Special Event and Special Person

This coming weekend is my grandson Zev’s bar mitzvah. 
  In addition to being a rather wonderful person, he is my first grandchild and named for my father, so he’s always had a special hold on my heart.   
  His mother, my daughter Meredith, asked me to bake the challah for the celebration.  
  I find myself inexpressibly moved by this request.  
  I really can’t say anything more, so I’ll just give you the challah recipe. It’s already been posted on this blog, but never before has it seemed this delicious.                                                                                                                                                                           
  Challah   
     
  2 packages active dry yeast  
  1/2 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)  
  1/2 cup sugar  
  8-8-1/2 cups all purpose flour  
  1 tablespoon salt  
  5 large eggs  
  3 tablespoons vegetable oil  
  1-1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)  
  1 teaspoon water  
  poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional  
     
  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir, set aside and let rest for 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt. In a small bowl, mix 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the lukewarm water. Add to the flour mixture.  Add the yeast mixture. Blend ingredients thoroughly. Using the kneading hook, knead for 4-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary to make sure the dough is not sticky. NOTE: you can make this dough in a food processor (halve the recipe). Cover the bowl of dough and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 30 minutes or until doubled. Remove the dough to a floured surface. Cut dough in 6 or 12 pieces depending on whether you are making one large or two smaller loaves. Make long strands out of the pieces. Braid the strands. Place the braided dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg with the tsp. of water. Brush this over the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Bake for about 35-40 minutes for large loaf, about 28-30 minutes for smaller ones (they should be firm and golden brown).  
     
  Braiding a 6-strand Challah:  

  Place 6 strands of dough on a floured board. Press the strands on the top to seal them together. Now:  
     
  1. Take the strand on the far r  ight all the way over to the left  
  2. Former far left all the way over to the right  
  3. The now far left into the middle  
  4. Second from right to the far left  
  5. The now far right into the middle  
  6. Second from left to far right  
  7. Now far left into the middle  
     

 Repeat 4-7 until the strands are used up. Press the strands to seal the bottom of the loaf.

This coming weekend is my grandson Zev’s bar mitzvah.

In addition to being a rather wonderful person, he is my first grandchild and named for my father, so he’s always had a special hold on my heart. 

His mother, my daughter Meredith, asked me to bake the challah for the celebration.

I find myself inexpressibly moved by this request.

I really can’t say anything more, so I’ll just give you the challah recipe. It’s already been posted on this blog, but never before has it seemed this delicious.                                                                                                                                                                       

Challah 

 

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)

1/2 cup sugar

8-8-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

5 large eggs

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1-1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)

1 teaspoon water

poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir, set aside and let rest for 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt. In a small bowl, mix 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the lukewarm water. Add to the flour mixture.  Add the yeast mixture. Blend ingredients thoroughly. Using the kneading hook, knead for 4-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary to make sure the dough is not sticky. NOTE: you can make this dough in a food processor (halve the recipe). Cover the bowl of dough and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 30 minutes or until doubled. Remove the dough to a floured surface. Cut dough in 6 or 12 pieces depending on whether you are making one large or two smaller loaves. Make long strands out of the pieces. Braid the strands. Place the braided dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg with the tsp. of water. Brush this over the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Bake for about 35-40 minutes for large loaf, about 28-30 minutes for smaller ones (they should be firm and golden brown).

 

Braiding a 6-strand Challah:

Place 6 strands of dough on a floured board. Press the strands on the top to seal them together. Now:

 

1. Take the strand on the far right all the way over to the left

2. Former far left all the way over to the right

3. The now far left into the middle

4. Second from right to the far left

5. The now far right into the middle

6. Second from left to far right

7. Now far left into the middle

 

Repeat 4-7 until the strands are used up. Press the strands to seal the bottom of the loaf.

Challah French Toast

In the world of French Toast, the kind made with challah is by far the best and most delicious. 
 Don’t you agree? 
  I’ve tried this dish with so many different kinds of bread, I can’t even recount them all. Here’s what I’ve learned:  
  Packaged white bread gets too soggy for French Toast. It falls apart; also it’s too thin.   
  Bakery white bread is fine, but uninspiring.   
  Multigrain bread has too many distracting extras, like seeds and stuff.   
  Whole wheat has a strong flavor so it competes with the vanilla-custardy taste that you want.  
 French bread is fabulous for French Toast, I grant you that. But it is crusty-firm and not everyone appreciates that. 
  Challah is #1. The champ. Because it is so dense (and absorbs the egg- milk-vanilla soak splendidly). And because it is so rich and eggy to begin with. (Brioche, which is almost exactly like challah, will do too.)  
  But make sure it isn’t pre-sliced challah, which is too thin. Slice the bread yourself using a serrated knife.          
 This recipe is a winner at my house. 

  
 Challah French Toast 

 6 large eggs 
 1/2 cup whole milk 
 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
 8 1-inch slices challah (or brioche) 
 1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
 maple syrup 

  
 Preheat the oven to 140°F. Beat the eggs, milk and vanilla extract in a large shallow pan until well blended. Add the bread slices and let them soak, turning them occasionally, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add a few pieces of the soaked bread and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly browned and crispy. Don’t crowd the pan. When the slices are cooked, place them on a cookie sheet and keep them warm in the oven; repeat with remaining bread, adding more butter if needed. Serve with maple syrup. Makes 4 servings

In the world of French Toast, the kind made with challah is by far the best and most delicious.

Don’t you agree?

I’ve tried this dish with so many different kinds of bread, I can’t even recount them all. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Packaged white bread gets too soggy for French Toast. It falls apart; also it’s too thin.

Bakery white bread is fine, but uninspiring.

Multigrain bread has too many distracting extras, like seeds and stuff.

Whole wheat has a strong flavor so it competes with the vanilla-custardy taste that you want.

French bread is fabulous for French Toast, I grant you that. But it is crusty-firm and not everyone appreciates that.

Challah is #1. The champ. Because it is so dense (and absorbs the egg- milk-vanilla soak splendidly). And because it is so rich and eggy to begin with. (Brioche, which is almost exactly like challah, will do too.)

But make sure it isn’t pre-sliced challah, which is too thin. Slice the bread yourself using a serrated knife.        

This recipe is a winner at my house.

Challah French Toast

6 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 1-inch slices challah (or brioche)

1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 140°F. Beat the eggs, milk and vanilla extract in a large shallow pan until well blended. Add the bread slices and let them soak, turning them occasionally, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add a few pieces of the soaked bread and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly browned and crispy. Don’t crowd the pan. When the slices are cooked, place them on a cookie sheet and keep them warm in the oven; repeat with remaining bread, adding more butter if needed. Serve with maple syrup. Makes 4 servings

Challah Rolls

If you think smoked salmon with a shmear of cream cheese tastes pretty good on a bagel, then you really ought to try some on a challah roll. 

That’s the way I learned to eat smoked salmon, or, “lox” as we called it back in the day. Of course we had bagels too. But nothing beat those challah rolls. There isn’t a bread on earth as delicious as challah. And so, anything as awesome as lox or smoked salmon or whatever you call it that’s good on a bagel is equally good and probably better if you eat it on challah, or challah rolls, which are, after all, nothing more than mini challahs. They are unlike any other kind of roll except perhaps for brioche. Challah rolls are dense and thick and really there aren’t enough wonderful words for them.

As I said, I learned to eat lox and cream cheese on challah rolls when I was a youngster and my parents and our extended family spent many a Christmas vacation at Helferd’s Hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey. That’s how Helferd’s served smoked fish at breakfast. My cousin Leslie and I still talk about it and marvel about how delicious those rolls were.

So I made some the other day using my challah recipe, which, I have to say, is so, so delicious. My grandmother once won a prize for the recipe.

I actually made a double recipe of these and froze most of them. 

If you want to make challah rolls, check out the photos. Here are the basic shaping instructions:

First: cut the dough into 12 equal strands about 10-inches long.

Second: working with one strand at a time, make a medium-size loop with two long strand lengths remaining at the bottom.

Third: take the strand length on the left and tuck it under the loop; then bring it up slightly through the loop.

Fourth: take the strand length on the right and bring it over the loop, tucking it into the center.

Fifth: brush the rolls with egg wash (see the recipe) and bake. You’ll have 12 rolls that look like the one in the last photo.

Challah Rolls

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (about 105 degrees; feels slightly warm to touch)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water (about 105 degrees)
     

In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. While the yeast is resting, place 3-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook. Add 2 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the 3/4 cup water. Mix, using the dough hook until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and blend in thoroughly. Knead for about 3-4 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to make the dough smooth and soft, but not overly sticky.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Remove the dough to a floured surface.

Cut the dough into 12 pieces. Make 10-inch long strands out of each piece. Working with one strand at a time, make a loop at the top, leaving 2 stand lengths on the bottom left and right. Take the strand length on left and the bring it under the loop, then lift it through the loop slightly. Take the strand length on the right and bring it on top of the loop and tuck it in. Repeat with all the strands. Place the rolls on the cookie sheet. Beat the last egg. Brush the surface of each roll with some of the egg. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

While the dough is in the last rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes or until firm and golden brown.

Makes 12

9-Braid Challah

It’s been a crazy week at my house. For various reasons my kids and grandkids have been here, on and off, for a week.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, despite the chaos, the noise and the clutter. I should tell you that at one point my two-year old grandson Remy looked into my refrigerator fruit bin and said “this is a mess. Grandma!”

Who cares! I love when they all come and we have dinner together and plates clatter and dishwashers dishwash and there is plenty of conversation and also lots of leftovers.

At one point, my grandson Zev, age 11, who bakes challah with me all the time, suggested that instead of the traditional 6-braid challah, or a bakery-style 4-braid challah or even an easy 3-braider, we do a 9-strand version. That is, braid three strands, like a classic braid, three times, and then braid those three braids together. That would make it a 9-strander, for sure. With that wonderful lumpy, bumpy surface that makes challah look so appealing.

Had to try that. So we did. The pre-baked challah looked perfect, and very interesting.

Alas, we didn’t braid the three 3-braiders tight enough and the bread opened up on top as it baked.

Still, it looked good to us. And even better, it tasted as wonderful as our usual challah.

And best of all, we had a good time working on it together.

Challah

For instructions on how to make a 6-braid challah, see: http://ronniefein.com/post/18188044789/baking-challah-i-posted-my-recipe-last-week-and

2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
8-8-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)
1 teaspoon water
poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir, set aside and let rest for 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt. In a small bowl, mix 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the lukewarm water. Add to the flour mixture. Add the yeast mixture. Blend ingredients thoroughly. Using the kneading hook, knead for 4-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary to make sure the dough is not sticky. NOTE: you can make this dough in a food processor (halve the recipe). Cover the bowl of dough and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 30 minutes or until doubled. Remove the dough to a floured surface. Cut dough in 3 or 6 pieces depending on whether you are making one large or two smaller loaves. Make long strands out of the pieces. Braid the strands. Place the braided dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg with the teaspoon of water. Brush this over the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise again for 30 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes for large loaf, 22-25 minutes for smaller ones (they should be firm and golden brown).

To make a 9-braider: cut the dough into 9 equal pieces and roll each piece into a very long strand. Braid three strands at a time into a traditional braid, then braid the three braided strands.

How to Braid a 6-strand Challah

Baking challah? I posted my  recipe  last week and later realized that a lot of people don’t know how to braid a challah. A cousin of mine called a while ago to confirm that fact. She had wanted to make a challah but didn’t know how to make the bread look professional.  Btw, her name is  Jenny Rosenstrach  and she is a food writer and blogger, with a terrific book about getting dinner to the table every day ( Time for Dinner ) and book coming in June called  Dinner: a Love Story  and a wonderful, family-oriented blog with the same name:  Dinner: a Love Story .  She wasn’t the first to consider the whole braiding issue (plus how to make a round challah at holiday time).  So I decided to tell you all how to do it.  I myself became a “pro” not to long ago, I should confess. I had been to a bakery on a tour with one of the women’s groups I belong to. The baker zipped through the braiding so fast it reminded me of those old time black and white movies where people are walking but they look as if they’re running. So we asked him to show us again but of course it was a “show” not a real instruction lesson so he went even faster the next time and no one figured it out.  I always made challah with a standard three-strand braid.  Then I found someone who showed how to do it on Youtube. I don’t remember which version it was or I would mention it here. But my grandson Zev and I were watching and trying to braid the challah as we watched. We had to stop the computer after each step so we could write it all down (and of course we got flour crumbs all over the keyboard) but we finally did get it right.   The next time we made a challah together he remembered it all.  I had to get my instruction sheet out and do it step by step.  I finally got it (after several times).  Okay, you can make a regular three-strand braided challah, the way I had done for years and years. The challah is still delicious. That kind of braid is like braiding someone’s hair. Left over middle, right over middle, left over middle, right over middle, etc.  But, making a 6-strand braid is a little more complicated.  Here’s how:  Lay the six strands alongside each other and press the strands together at the top to seal the top edge. Then braid the strands as follows:  1. far right strand all the way over to the left  2. former far left strand all the way over to the right  3. the now far left strand into the middle  4. the second from right strand all the way over to the left  5. the now far right into the middle  6. the second from the left all the way over to the right  7. the now far left into the middle  8. repeat 4 through 7 as many times as necessary to use up the strands  9. press the strands together at the bottom  Good luck! And enjoy.

Baking challah? I posted my recipe last week and later realized that a lot of people don’t know how to braid a challah. A cousin of mine called a while ago to confirm that fact. She had wanted to make a challah but didn’t know how to make the bread look professional.

Btw, her name is Jenny Rosenstrach and she is a food writer and blogger, with a terrific book about getting dinner to the table every day (Time for Dinner) and book coming in June called Dinner: a Love Story and a wonderful, family-oriented blog with the same name: Dinner: a Love Story.

She wasn’t the first to consider the whole braiding issue (plus how to make a round challah at holiday time).

So I decided to tell you all how to do it.

I myself became a “pro” not to long ago, I should confess. I had been to a bakery on a tour with one of the women’s groups I belong to. The baker zipped through the braiding so fast it reminded me of those old time black and white movies where people are walking but they look as if they’re running. So we asked him to show us again but of course it was a “show” not a real instruction lesson so he went even faster the next time and no one figured it out.

I always made challah with a standard three-strand braid.

Then I found someone who showed how to do it on Youtube. I don’t remember which version it was or I would mention it here. But my grandson Zev and I were watching and trying to braid the challah as we watched. We had to stop the computer after each step so we could write it all down (and of course we got flour crumbs all over the keyboard) but we finally did get it right. 

The next time we made a challah together he remembered it all.

I had to get my instruction sheet out and do it step by step.

I finally got it (after several times).

Okay, you can make a regular three-strand braided challah, the way I had done for years and years. The challah is still delicious. That kind of braid is like braiding someone’s hair. Left over middle, right over middle, left over middle, right over middle, etc.

But, making a 6-strand braid is a little more complicated.

Here’s how:

Lay the six strands alongside each other and press the strands together at the top to seal the top edge. Then braid the strands as follows:

1. far right strand all the way over to the left

2. former far left strand all the way over to the right

3. the now far left strand into the middle

4. the second from right strand all the way over to the left

5. the now far right into the middle

6. the second from the left all the way over to the right

7. the now far left into the middle

8. repeat 4 through 7 as many times as necessary to use up the strands

9. press the strands together at the bottom

Good luck! And enjoy.

My Grandma's Award-winning Challah

My house is going to smell GREAT today! It’s Friday. The grandkids are coming for the weekend. That means challah with dinner, Challah French Toast in the morning.  There are few things that smell as good as a challah baking in the oven.  This challah recipe is from my father’s mother. Last year I had lunch with a long lost cousin on my father’s side who had been brought up by that grandmother (and grandfather). I hadn’t seen him in 40 years. We started to talk about his life with them and at some point got to the cooking and of course, the challah. He told me that grandma’s challah was legendary and that once, one of her challahs went up at auction for their synagogue and it raised $100. And that was in the 1930s! A fortune of money, but I guess the buyer knew how good that challah would be.  Grandma’s recipe, as handed down by my mother, had no instructions and the list of ingredients said stuff like “8 hands of flour” and “1/2 hand of sugar.”  It took several tries for me to work this out but I finally did get it right.   Here is the award-winning challah recipe:   Challah   2 packages active dry yeast 1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees; feels slightly warm to touch) 1/2 cup sugar 8 cups all-purpose flour, approximately 1 tablespoon salt 5 large eggs 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1–1/2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees) Poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional  In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly.  While the yeast is resting, place 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook. Add 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the 1-1/2 cups water. Mix, using the dough hook until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and blend in thoroughly. Knead for about 3-4 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to make the dough smooth and soft, but not overly sticky.  Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Remove the dough to a floured surface.  Cut the dough into 3 or 6 pieces, depending on whether you are going to make a 3 or 6 strand braid. Make long strands out of each piece. Braid the strands and seal the ends together by pressing on the dough. Place the bread on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg. Brush the surface with some of the egg. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.  While the dough is in the last rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the challah for about 30 minutes or until firm and golden brown.  Makes one large challah. You can cut the dough in half to make two smaller loaves (bake for about 22-25 minutes) or make a half recipe. (For half recipes you can use a food processor to make and knead the dough).

My house is going to smell GREAT today! It’s Friday. The grandkids are coming for the weekend. That means challah with dinner, Challah French Toast in the morning.

There are few things that smell as good as a challah baking in the oven.

This challah recipe is from my father’s mother. Last year I had lunch with a long lost cousin on my father’s side who had been brought up by that grandmother (and grandfather). I hadn’t seen him in 40 years. We started to talk about his life with them and at some point got to the cooking and of course, the challah. He told me that grandma’s challah was legendary and that once, one of her challahs went up at auction for their synagogue and it raised $100. And that was in the 1930s! A fortune of money, but I guess the buyer knew how good that challah would be.

Grandma’s recipe, as handed down by my mother, had no instructions and the list of ingredients said stuff like “8 hands of flour” and “1/2 hand of sugar.”

It took several tries for me to work this out but I finally did get it right. 

Here is the award-winning challah recipe:

Challah

2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees; feels slightly warm to touch)
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
1 tablespoon salt
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1–1/2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees)
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional

In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly.

While the yeast is resting, place 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook. Add 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the 1-1/2 cups water. Mix, using the dough hook until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and blend in thoroughly. Knead for about 3-4 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to make the dough smooth and soft, but not overly sticky.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Remove the dough to a floured surface.

Cut the dough into 3 or 6 pieces, depending on whether you are going to make a 3 or 6 strand braid. Make long strands out of each piece. Braid the strands and seal the ends together by pressing on the dough. Place the bread on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg. Brush the surface with some of the egg. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

While the dough is in the last rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the challah for about 30 minutes or until firm and golden brown.

Makes one large challah. You can cut the dough in half to make two smaller loaves (bake for about 22-25 minutes) or make a half recipe. (For half recipes you can use a food processor to make and knead the dough).

The Family Challah Recipe

I know a round challah is traditional for the Jewish holidays but I will still make braided ones because after years and years of making an easy 3-braid bread, I have finally learned how to make the more professional-looking 6-braider and I want to practice until I can do it in my sleep, like butter cookies or apple pie.

Thanks to the internet, I learned the secrets of the 6-braider from a YouTube video. My grandson Zev and I watched, stopped the video from time to time to write down what the woman was saying. The first one took us at least 10 minutes to braid because we had to go back a few times to figure out what she was saying and also to undo some of our missteps. Also to dust off my computer, which unfortunately was a bit too close to the floured work surface.

My mom, who was a good baker, nevertheless never baked a homemade challah. She baked butter cookies and apple pie and taught me how do do those which is why I could make them without even thinking about what I’m doing. But she did reminisce often about my grandmother’s challah. That would be my father’s mother, who my mother always said was a terrible cook but did make one terrific challah.

She gave me my grandmother’s recipe. In those days women didn’t really write down recipes. If someone wanted to learn they had to watch and learn by example. My mother wrote down the basic ingredients on a card. The one she gave me. No instructions, just amounts.

Sort of.

The recipe card called for 8 hands of flour. 1/2 hand sugar. Like that.

I have big hands. I don’t know about my grandmother’s hands though.

And I had no idea what to do with the dough after it was done.

So I experimented and tried and tried to get it right, which I finally did and I have to say it’s fabulous challah. There’s never enough of it and everyone loves it.

Recently I had lunch with a cousin who I had not seen in 40 years. He was brought up by my grandmother and one of the things he reminisced about over lunch was how delicious her challah was. I told him about my adventures with her recipe and he seemed really happy about the family challah recipe put to good use. He even told me that once, years before I was born, there was a charity auction for my grandmother’s synagogue. She baked a challah and it sold for $100!!! A huge amount of money today, for a bread, but can you imagine what that meant in the 1930s??

When challah is good, it’s really really good. Look for my recipe posted yesterday.

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Grandma's Challah

Why do challah recipes always tell you the yield in loaves, not how many a loaf serves?  My guess is that an 8-cup-of-flour challah is supposed to be enough for at least 12 people. But when a challah’s really good you never know! In my family I sometimes think I need a personal challah for everyone (and in fact when I bake challah with my grandchildren I give them each a lump of dough and they actually do get their own personal challahs).  My challah recipe yields 2 regular size or one enormous loaf. But one eight cup of flour recipe is never enough for 6 adults and 3 kids, especially when there’s going to be a break-the-fast for 17 adults plus several more children. I make at least two of these and only sometimes are there any leftovers for French toast the next day.  I really should think about three. That’s my task for tomorrow. Thanks to a big freezer.  Here’s the recipe:   CHALLAH   2 packages active dry yeast  1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees; feels slightly warm to touch)  1/2 cup sugar  8 cups flour, approximately  1 tablespoon salt  5 large eggs  3 tablespoons vegetable oil  1-1/2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees)  poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional  In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. While the yeast is resting, place 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook. Add 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the 1-1/2 cups water. Mix using the dough hook until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and blend in thoroughly. Knead (at medium-high speed) until the dough is smooth and elastic (3-4 minutes). Add more flour as needed to make the dough smooth and soft, but not overly sticky. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Remove the dough to a floured surface. Cut the dough into 3 or 6 pieces depending on whether you are going to make one large or two smaller loaves. Make long strands out of each piece. Braid the strands and seal the ends together by pressing on the dough. Place the bread(s) on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg. Brush the surface with some of the egg. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. While the dough is in the last rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes for one large bread, 22-25 minutes for two smaller breads. They should be firm and golden brown. Makes one large or two smaller challahs  NOTE: you can make the dough in a food processor — cut the recipe in half  Ask Ronnie a question:  http://ronniefein.com/ask   To comment:  http://ronniefein.com/submit

Why do challah recipes always tell you the yield in loaves, not how many a loaf serves?

My guess is that an 8-cup-of-flour challah is supposed to be enough for at least 12 people. But when a challah’s really good you never know! In my family I sometimes think I need a personal challah for everyone (and in fact when I bake challah with my grandchildren I give them each a lump of dough and they actually do get their own personal challahs).

My challah recipe yields 2 regular size or one enormous loaf. But one eight cup of flour recipe is never enough for 6 adults and 3 kids, especially when there’s going to be a break-the-fast for 17 adults plus several more children. I make at least two of these and only sometimes are there any leftovers for French toast the next day.

I really should think about three. That’s my task for tomorrow. Thanks to a big freezer.

Here’s the recipe:

CHALLAH

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees; feels slightly warm to touch)

1/2 cup sugar

8 cups flour, approximately

1 tablespoon salt

5 large eggs

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1-1/2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees)

poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional

In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. While the yeast is resting, place 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook. Add 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the 1-1/2 cups water. Mix using the dough hook until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and blend in thoroughly. Knead (at medium-high speed) until the dough is smooth and elastic (3-4 minutes). Add more flour as needed to make the dough smooth and soft, but not overly sticky. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Remove the dough to a floured surface. Cut the dough into 3 or 6 pieces depending on whether you are going to make one large or two smaller loaves. Make long strands out of each piece. Braid the strands and seal the ends together by pressing on the dough. Place the bread(s) on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg. Brush the surface with some of the egg. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. While the dough is in the last rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes for one large bread, 22-25 minutes for two smaller breads. They should be firm and golden brown. Makes one large or two smaller challahs

NOTE: you can make the dough in a food processor — cut the recipe in half

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