“Shabbat Shalom and Good Shabbos!”
Each Shabbat, my inbox is flooded with Facebook messages from all over the world. My Facebook group, Norene’s Kitchen!, has 5,000 + members and has grown into a wonderful, close-knit community where recipes, menus, food photos, tips, and cooking videos are shared by members. Of course, no matter what else is on the Shabbat menu, challah always takes centre stage. Whether homemade or store-bought, nothing tastes more like Shabbat than challah.
One member recently posted an adorable photo of her dog wearing a kippah and tallit. He is suffering from kidney failure and it’s been a struggle for his owner to find a low-protein, low-fat diet for him. Although he’s lost his appetite, Pierre loves challah, chicken soup and chicken!
One of our members is currently visiting from Israel and a small group of women met for an impromptu supper. Of course, the discussion turned to food, Shabbat, and then, how to shape a 6-braid challah. I gave a class using 6 napkins formed into long strands to demonstrate my easy braiding technique:
- Form dough into 6 long strands. Join them together at the top.
- Number them from 1 to 6.
- Starting from the far right, take strand #6 and cross it over strands #5 and #4, then pass it under #3.
- Then cross it overtop #2 and #1.
- Repeat, always starting from the right side.
- Repeat this mantra: Over two, under one, over two. Easy ‘dough’s’ it! Enjoy…
NORENE’S PRIZE-WINNING CHALLAH, UPDATED
This delectable braided bread is served all over the world on Shabbat, Jewish holidays, and special ceremonial occasions. I’ve taught challah-making and braiding at many large community Challah Bakes and this recipe is a winner!
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°F)
1 pkg regular or quick-rising yeast (1 Tbsp)
1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour (part whole wheat or spelt flour can be used)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water
Poppy or sesame seeds, or Streusel Topping (below)
1. Dissolve sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl which has first been rinsed with hot water. Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir to dissolve.
2. Combine with oil, warm water, sugar, salt, eggs, and half of the flour. Beat well. Gradually stir in most of the remaining flour – you probably won’t need it all. Dough should be slightly sticky to the touch.
3. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding just enough flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking.
4. Place dough in a large greased bowl; turn it over so all surfaces are lightly greased. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Dough may also rise in the refrigerator; it will keep up to 3 days before shaping and baking).
5. Punch down. For a lighter texture, cover and let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.
6. To shape: Divide dough into three equal parts. (Note: To make two smaller challahs, first divide dough in half, then divide each half into three equal parts.) Shape into long strands. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and braid loosely. Fasten ends securely, tucking them under. (Shaped loaf/loaves can be frozen at this point. When needed, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then continue as directed.)
7. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes. Brush with egg glaze; sprinkle with seeds or streusel topping.
8. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown. (If making two smaller challahs, baking time will be about 25 minutes.) Dough will sound hollow when tapped with your fingers. Cool away from drafts.
Yield: One large or two small challahs. Freezes well.
HONEY RAISIN CHALLAH: Use 1/4 cup honey instead of sugar. In Step 3, knead 3/4 cup raisins into dough.
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup oil
1. Combine flour, sugar and oil in a bowl, food processor or mini prep; mix until fine crumbs are formed.
Makes enough topping for one or two challahs. Freezes well (store airtight in a resealable freezer bag).
Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is the author of eleven cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer, and cookbook editor.