Sunday, October 05, 2008

Happy Challah days

If you're familiar with Hebrew speech, you know that my title there is pronounced much like the greetings used in December, except with the "ch" being pronounced as a guttural "h" from the back of the throat.

And this being the week between the Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it's naturally time to make a challah or two, even if you're one of the goyim like me. Even though I'm not Jewish, Jess is, and it's nice to make a challah for the holidays. For me, it's a wonderful reminder of his mom and his Nana Nan, who were two great cooks, and the holidays were a time for feasting. Jess' mom made the best brisket and matzo ball soup, and Nana Nan was an expert at chopped liver. I never liked chopped liver until I had Nana's.

Lemme tell ya, I can kick some tokhes when it comes to bread, though, and challah is no exception.



Dodger likes anything going on in the kitchen. He's always ready to clean up.



Mandy sits outside the kitchen and watches...



...although once in a while, she comes in for a look.



The way I make challah is a process: you mix up the dough from flour, sugar, salt, lots of eggs, warm water and melted margarine.



Then the fun begins. You warm the oven, turn it off and put the dough in and let it rise for 30 minutes until it has doubled.



Take it out, punch it down, repeat with the oven rising for 20 minutes.



Take it out, punch it down, repeat with the oven rising for 15 more minutes. Take it out, punch it down (oy vey! Can we get on with it already?!)



The dough can be quite sticky. Jess' caption suggestion for this photo: "Achoo!"






Using only enough flour to make it workable, knead the dough by hand for 6 minutes. Remember to heat that oven back up to 180...you'll need it in a few minutes.





Then the dough is cut in half, and each half is cut into six pieces: three smaller, three larger. The three larger pieces are each rolled into ropes about 8 inches long, and the three smaller pieces are each rolled into ropes about 6 inches long.




Each set of three ropes is braided. The larger braid is placed on the pan and the smaller braid is placed atop the larger braid, centered side to side and end to end.




Then, when both loaves have been braided, you brush them twice with an egg wash for a gorgeous shellac-like finish when baked. Are we tired yet? Ah, finally, time to bake!




Time to bake, that's the easy part...you think? No, it is not; at least not for the recipe I use, which is from Joan Nathan, goddess of Jewish food. Baking is done is stages. You put the loaves into the 180-degree oven and let them set/rise for about 20 minutes. They get all nice and billowy, like bread clouds. Then you raise the oven temp to 200 degrees and bake them for 15 minutes. Then 275 degrees for 15 minutes. Are we finished yet? No. 375 degrees for 6 minutes, followed by convection baking at 375 for 6 minutes to put the final beautiful shade of brown on it.




I love making bread, but challah is probably one of the most tedious breads I make what with the multiple rises and punch-downs and the convoluted baking process. But it's the results that count: you're rewarded with two beautiful, moist, heavy loaves of the best challah you'll ever eat. Yum. This is what makes it worth it.




Bernice says, "L'Shanah Tovah...L'Chaim!" (Happy New Year...to life!)

6 Comments:

At 7:47 PM, October 05, 2008, Blogger Jess said...

This bread is fabulous! Having just eaten a piece, I have happy mouth, and I have you to thank!

 
At 8:10 PM, October 05, 2008, Blogger Andy said...

Awesome!!!!!

 
At 9:30 AM, October 07, 2008, Blogger Greg said...

WOW!! Just think, I have always enjoyed the delightful goodness of Challah without realizing all the work...and punching and rising and such...that went into it all. Thanks for the lesson, Marc!

L'Chaim!! And Happy new Year!

 
At 6:41 PM, October 07, 2008, Blogger Michelle Ann said...

Should I give you my address so you can send me a Challah!?!

Love the pictures of the babies...especially that Bernice, she a dear one to my heart. :)

 
At 9:35 PM, October 07, 2008, Blogger ATG said...

wow, those are gorgeous loaves. there is nothing like homemade warm challah.
unless you count french toast made from homemade challah.

mail me a loaf, please. ;)

 
At 10:09 PM, October 07, 2008, Blogger Marc said...

Greg - well, maybe others don't make it the way I do. I'll let you be the judge come the weekend.

Michelle - Your salsa is still waiting to be picked up! The challah would be a rock by the time it made it all the way to Cali. Yes, Bernice (or "Crazy Ear" as she is known), Nadine's northeast cousin... : )

ATG - thanks!..and yes, we do love the french toast challah. Sorry, mail is no good for bread! Once it goes through the canceller, it's useless!

 

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