Challah... The Jewish Sabbath Bread

Challah is the special bread that Jews have during Sabbath. Sabbath is the Jewish 'rest' day and it starts on Friday just before sunset and continues till the appearance of 3 stars on Saturday night. The festive meals eaten during this time consists of Challah bread. The taste resembles the normal bread, at least to me, but contrary to normal bread making, the recipe of Challah contain eggs. It has a very delicate taste and can be accompanied by sweet or savoury food. Bread making itself is an art, which I learnt from a book written by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, and I must tell you, this book encompasses almost everything you need to know about breads and bread making, under the sun. It is titled, 'How to Make Bread' and all bread lovers should get hold of it!

Bread is usually made using 'strong flour' or 'bread flour' that is specially milled for bread making and it contains a high amount of protein to trap the carbon dioxide during fermentation and give the bread a good texture. The normal plain flour has only a medium protein level which is more suited for cakes, pastries and cookies. So the general suggestion, if you plan to make a good loaf of bread, is that, use 'BREAD FLOUR' for it, which is available in the baking section of any good store.
Here goes the recipe for making Challah, which is also followed by a step by step picture presentation.

White Strong Bread Flour - 2 cups
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon
Sugar - 1 tablespoon
Dried/Active Dry Yeast - 1 teaspoon
Warm Water - 1/3 cup
Egg Yolk - 1 medium
Whole Egg - 1 medium
Sunflower Oil - 1 generous tablespoon
Egg beaten with a pinch of Salt (for the egg wash) - 1 medium
Sesame Seeds or Poppy Seeds - for sprinkling

In one smaller mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar together and set aside (pictures 1, 2 and 3). This is the dry mixture.
In a larger mixing bowl, weigh out the yeast. Add the warm water and stir until the yeast has dissolved (pictures 4, 5 and 6).
Lightly beat together the egg yolk and the whole egg (pictures 7 and 8).

Add the beaten eggs to the yeast solution (pictures 9 and 10). This is the wet mixture.
Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Mix the mixtures together with a wooden spoon. Mix in the oil and knead with the hands until well combined (pictures 11 to 17).

Cover with the bowl that had the dry mixture in it (picture 18). Let stand for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, knead the dough for 20 seconds (pictures 19 to 22). Cover the bowl again and let it stand for 10 more minutes.
Repeat this kneading process 3 more times with the 10 minutes gap in between (picture 19 to 22).
After the fourth kneading, cover the dough and let it rise for 1 hour. The dough, will double in size (picture 23).
Punch the risen dough with your fist and release the air out of it (picture 24). Knead it for 5 seconds and transfer it to a lightly floured surface (picture 25) and start shaping it.

Roll the dough with your hands until you have a long sausage of dough with tapered ends (picture 26).
Roll up the length of the dough into a tight snail shape, tucking in the ends (picture 27).
Place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush it all over with the egg wash (picture 28).
Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds (picture 29).
Cover and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes (picture 30).
About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 240 degrees C.
Place a roasting or baking pan at the bottom of the oven and start preheating.
Once the oven is preheated, pour a cup of water into the hot roasting pan (picture 31). This will create steam while the bread is baking. (Steam is important, while bread baking, in order to soften the crust and let out air bubbles so that the surface of the bread does not crack).
Place the baking tray with the challah in the middle of the oven on top of the hot roasting pan with the water (picture 32).
Lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees C (picture 33) and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

To check if the bread is baked through, tip it upside down and tap the bottom - it should sound hollow. If it is not ready, return to the oven for a few minutes. If it is ready, transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Bread is special - from the time you start mixing the ingredients to the time you take it out of the oven and tap the bottom... and the overwhelming aroma when it cools down and you start working on the next process as is pictured below:

The satisfaction you derive out of eating a creation of your own, that too... a slice from a loaf of bread... is enormous! And once you have successfully done it, you will do it again.
I bet you.

Lots of love and happiness:)


Anu said…
Looks so fluffy and soft.
Swasthi said…
lovely presentation sangeeta! glad to follow you
Sangeeta Madhav said…
Thanks so much Swasthi:)
Suman Arthy said…
Dear I have an award waiting for you in my blog, please collect it from:
Sangeeta Madhav said…
Oh!!! Thankyou so much!!! Will collect it asap!!!
Anonymous said…
wow looks so perfect.... fluffy and soft...
Sangeeta Madhav said…
Thanks heaps, Bhavna!
Anil R Pillai said…
That up there, was a stunning piece of baking. See, when I occassionally visit Trader Joes, I get their Challah bread, which reminds me of the bakery bread from Trivandrum sometimes. I think I am going to take inspiration from your beautiful post, and make it myself next time. Thanks - your posts are incredible, and do not stop.
Sangeeta Madhav said…
Thanks a lot for the lovely comment here. I have almost stopped putting up posts since the last 2 years systematically, as life has become busy in various ways. Comments like these are a motivation now! If you do end up baking the bread, let m,e know how it turned out :)

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