Challah and me – I have baked a three strand braided Challah before and thought this would be a fairly easy challenge. I went through photographs and videos by Ruth and was intrigued by the six and the four braided round ones. My dough rised perfectly and I was super thrilled going to the next step. I used a chocolate cinnamon raisin filling inside each strand and rolled it up just right. I didnt realize that I was pulling the dough while braiding. The raisin poped out, the strand became thinner and thinner…oh boy this was a total mess,after all not as simple as I had expected. At the end of it, I was so frustrated that I bundled up all the dough together and placed it in a bowl for a short while. And there you go…. the dough rised again. By then it was too late so I put it in the refrigerator and decided to do something with it the next day with a fresh mind. Well that didn’t help either. Even the next day my luck didn’t favor me much. The dough was dry and looked really weird. Guess I messed it up once again. Hence begins my second tryst with Challah.

So this time I was pretty careful. I didn’t use any filling, just stuck with the plain one. I used a small portion of the dough to make a four strand braided round bread. The bread came out BIG, but looked beautiful. The other portion was used to make a six strand braid. I referred to Maggie Glezer’s video. It looked wonderful, but again the only problem was that it was too HUGE!.

I should have used a little less dough,silly me – lesson learnt. But I must say, they looked great and tasted even better.

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Challah is a bread of celebration in Jewish tradition. At a time when white flour was considered a luxury, its use was reserved for either the wealthy or for festive events. In Judaism, the Sabbath is a weekly holiday, and therefore is a festive occasion. It was around the 15th century when Jews in parts of Austria and Germany adopted an oval braided loaf from their neighbors to make the Sabbath special. These fancy shaped loaves made with white flour were seen as a fitting way to honor the Shabbat (Sabbath), symbolized in Jewish culture as a queen, therefore deserving of the finest one can achieve. In honoring the Sabbath as a day of rest, two loaves are traditionally put on the table. This is generally seen as a representation of the double portion of manna provided to the Children of Israel on Fridays during their wandering in the desert after fleeing from Egypt. This double portion allowed them to maintain the commandment to not do “work” on the Sabbath.

Another symbolic comparison to the manna eaten by the Israelites is the fact that challah is traditionally covered with a cloth prior to being blessed and eaten. According to tradition, manna was encased in dew to preserve its freshness. Covering the challah with a decorative cloth serves as another reminder of the special quality of the day of rest. There are other explanations given regarding why the challah is covered. Ruth says the one she always liked was that they cover the loaves so they will not be “embarrassed” by having to wait while the wine is blessed first. (A traditional Sabbath dinner begins with a blessing over the wine first, followed by the blessing of the bread, after which the meal is enjoyed.)

HONEY WHITE CHALLAH

An yeast-risen special braided Jewish bread, eaten on Sabbath and Holidays.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups warm water, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon dry active yeast
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon light colored vegetable / olive oil
4 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon salt
5 cups all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

In mixer bowl/large mixing bowl combine ½ cup warm water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. yeast. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf (shaped or braided as desired). Place loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted – I used a poppyseed topping for the six strand braided one and sesame seeds for the four strand braided one.) Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done. Cool on wire racks.

As mentioned my six strand braided bread was way too huge and bulky, it tasted excellent though. I toasted a few slices with cinnamon and sugar and made Bread Pudding out of it. Recipe to follow shortly:)

Thank you Ruth for the wonderful Challenge. All of us loved the Bread at home. I will try again to get the perfect six strand braided bread!

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