Can You Say, Challah?

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If there were any dish that summed up childhood for me it would be this challah bread. There are few particularly ridiculous stories attached to it.  The family jokes and traditions of our own attached to this bread.  Challah is a traditional Jewish bread symbolizing manna with the multiple strands woven into each loaf.  Ours does not have the same significance as we use only three strands.  The taste is still phenomenal.

The one thing I would never grow bored of watching was seeing my mom braid the loaf.  I loved that this bread was different than the others.  It was special because even more care went into forming it before it was placed in the oven.   Often you’d find it in our kitchen and it would easily be devoured.  The task of waiting for it to cool before we sliced it always a hard one.  The rich and velvety texture of challah adds substance to the usual slice of bread.  While we have used it for sandwiches or in french toast.  I believe it is best eaten alone with perhaps a spread of butter.

I think this bread helps to explain my childhood as well.  The variety of which we were exposed to as children shows up in our kitchen.  Challah as well as many other dishes that we found on our table are from my mom’s never ending quest to feed us not only good healthy food but culture as well.  I have learned a lot from merely asking questions about where everything comes from on our table.

Challah

3 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees), divided
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon salt
3 large eggs at room temperature
5-5 1/2 cups flour

Glaze

1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, beaten
sesame or poppy seeds optional

Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/3 cup warm water, let sit 5 minutes until frothy.

In the large bowl of a mixer, combine the 1 cup warm water and honey.  Add oil, salt and yeast mixture.  Beat in 3 eggs.  With a whisk, stir in 3 cups flour and then add the rest 1/2 cup at a time to form a stiff, sticky dough.

Turn out onto a floured countertop and knead for 5 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep dough from sticking.  You’ll know when its done, dough will be elastic, smooth and hardly sticky.  Place in an oiled bowl and set aside to rise, until doubled.

Punch down dough, separate into three equal pieces.  Roll and stretch pieces into 20-inch long logs.  On a piece of parchment paper big enough for a 10×15-inch baking pan, braid dough making sure to seal and tuck ends.  Cover and let rise till doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, brush with egg glaze and bake, 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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