breads & recipes: challah (brioche)
When I first began making Challah for Shabbat on Friday nights I would have to start thinking about it on Thursday so that I wouldn’t forget. Now it is second nature and as soon as I wake up on Friday I make the dough.
I began making the Challah because I wanted to create a family tradition. We don’t belong to a synagogue and it was important for me to set aside the time to recognize what I feel is our most important holiday, Shabbat. Friday night is a time for us to regroup as a family, have a meal together and discuss the weekend, which are often as busy as our weekdays. It is a pause, a breather, a time to reconnect with each other and our faith. The lighting of the Shabbat candles, the prayer over the wine and the bread remind us that we are a part of a bigger picture.
We usually have a lot of Challah left over for the below recipe can be divided to make two small loaves, but we like to make a large one. We love the leftover bread as it makes the best French toast. We also enjoy it toasted with butter and jam.
Challah is basically a brioche. All brioches have the same core ingredients. Brioche is sweet bread and we find the word brioche in a very famous saying, “S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche”. “If they have no bread, let them eat cake”. Marie-Antoinette is credited with this infamous quote. It is not certain that she did utter those words and it is also a mistake to think that if she did it was as big a slight as history has made it to be for it may refer to price regulation of bread.
You don’t have to be Jewish to make a Challah. And, you don’t even have to braid the Challah. You can bake it in small pans to be taken out and eaten with a little butter and jam. You can roll it into little buns to use for sandwiches or you shape it into a loaf to serve at dinner, any day of the week. This bread is extremely versatile, but most importantly it is extremely delicious!
4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
¼ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for proofing
1 ¼ cup warm water
1 tablespoon or 1 packet, active dry yeast
1 large egg plus one egg yolk for egg wash
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
1. Place the yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar and water in a small bowl and mix together. Let stand in a warm location letting the yeast proof. (Bubble until about double its volume)
2. Sift together the flour, ¼ cup sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
3. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, vegetable oil and honey. (Quick tip: When measuring out the oil and honey first pour the oil in the ¼ measuring cup. Then, measure out the honey. The residual oil in the cup will allow the honey to slide out, taking with it the oil that was coating the side of the measuring cup.)
4. When the yeast is finished proofing make a crater hole in the flour mixture.
5. Pour in the yeast mixture and the egg mixture. Combine by using your dough attachment for your stand alone mixer or if you do not have one oil a sturdy mixing spoon and combine the ingredients until a sticky dough is formed.
6. The dough will be very, sticky. Oil a large bowl and place the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm location. (In the winter I put my stove on warm and place the bowl nearby or if I need to run my dishwasher I place the bowl on the counter above it.)
7. Let the dough double in size. Then, with floured hands, on a floured surface, knead the dough a few times and place back into the bowl to rise again.
8. After it doubles in size, again, place the dough on a heavily floured surface. Knead until the dough is not sticky and feels smooth. Then, cut the dough into 3 equal sizes. Roll each portion into a medium to long length for braiding.
9. Once all three portions are ready, begin to braid ¼ down from the top, leaving the top alone for the moment. When you finish at the bottom pinch and tuck the end. Go back to the top and braid, pinching and tucking that end as well.
10. Place the Challah on an oiled baking sheet. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour.
11. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix the egg yolk with a bit of milk. Brush the mixture over the Challah. Bake until golden brown.
Model: Canon EOS 50D