Challah

What is Challah?
Challah is a special braided bread eaten by Jews, on the Sabbath and holidays. According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday late afternoon) and two holiday meals (one at night and lunch the following day) each begin with two complete loaves of bread. This “double loaf” commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt.

Why I baked it?
Braided bread looks pretty. And well, anything that looks good is always worth baking yourself.

Recipe:
(Source: Smitten Kitchen)
Smitten Kitchen gave measures for 2 loaves of bread. I’m not Jewish and I’m not a bread-person either. So I halved all measures and made a single loaf.

The list of ingredients below make only one loaf.
Ingredients:
1. 1 package active dry yeast (1 tbsp.)
2. 1/3 cup sugar
3. 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
4. 2 large eggs, plus one more for glazing
5. 1/2 tbsp. salt
6. 2 cups all purpose flour, plus a 1/2 cup more to aid kneading
7. 2 cups wheat flour (Trying to go the healthy way!)
8. 1 cup water (lukewarm)
9. Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds

Method:
1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and about half the sugar in the lukewarm water. Let this stand for about 10 minutes.
2. Whisk the olive oil into the yeast and then beat in both eggs, one at a time, with the remaining sugar and the salt.
3. Gradually add the flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
4. Flour a flat surface with the 1/2 cup flour and knead the dough on it, until smooth.
5. Clean out the bowl and grease it, then return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Alternately, the dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off.
6. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
7. Separate the dough into roughly, three portions and form these into balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and an inch and a half wide. Place the three strands in a row and braid them. Pinch the ends together or simply tuck the ends underneath.
8. Place the bread on a greased baking tray.
9. Beat an egg and brush some of it on the loaf. Either freeze the bread or let rise another hour.
10. If you intend on baking immediately, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and brush the loaf again. Sprinkle the bread with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds, if you like. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
11. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden.
12. Cool loaves on a rack.

Notes:
1. The bread smelt great. It tasted great. Only, it was a tad hard for my liking. It’s more the kind of bread you might want to eat with slices of fancy cheese. I remember eating pumpernickel bread when I was in Egypt, with Swiss cheese and also some really sharp Cheddar. My improvisation/suggestion would be to add a small amount of baking soda to the recipe, so that the bread rises and gets fluffy. Hard bread is good, yeah. Like the pumpernickel. I guess I was expecting something really fluffy, that’s it.
2. Traditionally, Challah can be made with 3-braids or with 6. I guess I was too lazy/skeptical of trying 6 braids.
3. Also, I must admit, this is the first edible bread recipe I have made. I’ve tried baking bread on a couple of occasions before, both while I was in India. My mother threw one loaf away. The second time around, was just about ok. The family appreciated my baking skills. But hard bread was the prime complaint. Also, I made so much of it that four days into having baked it, it started going bad. What remained had to be thrown away, as usual.
4. Well, baking at 4 am and yapping with new house mate all night, is not THAT bad an idea, after all. πŸ™‚

Picture, πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

Edit:
(Wednesday, August 18th, 2010)
Oh, I made Dal Makhani tonight and there was some bread left over from the other day. It made for an awesome meal. The bread, my complaints inclusive, was a hit!

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