Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday Munchies...

Today I'm sharing with you a baking task I have now managed to cross off my to-do list!  Making 5lbs of challah dough!  This is a ritual commonly observed by Jewish women in preparation for the Sabbath.  When one makes 5lbs of dough, the separate a piece off and say a blessing over the dough.  The reason there's a blessing is because we are taking a simple act, making bread, and connecting it to G-d, turning it into a holy act.  I've made plenty of challah dough in my years, but I've been too intimated by the 5lb label.  But I thought it would be a nice ritual to welcome in the first Shabbos spent in our new home.  Better yet, I lived to tell about it, and I can't wait to do it again! 

Challah This recipe is from a Kosher Palette cook book, I just can't remember which one and I can't find a link!
1/2 cup warm water 
4 (1/2 oz) packages of active dry yeast 
1 tabelspoon sugar 
7 large eggs 
2 cups sugar 
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
7 teaspoons salt 
4 cups boiling water 
1 (5 lb) bag of flour 
1 large egg, lightly beaten
toppings: poppy seed, sesame seed, cinnamon and sugar, honey 

When making bread, you have to start with what is called guessed it...a starter! It's essentially where you test your yeast out to make sure it will enable the dough to rise. This step, is the most crucial part of the entire process, and requires a bit of attention to a few details. None of this is hard, but this is where it can easily get messed up and ruin the entire batch. So pay attention! 

Combine the warm water, tablespoon of sugar, and the yeast into a small bowl. Warm water can be described as room temperature to a little bit warmer than that.  If you make the water too hot, it will kill the yeast.  If you're not sure about the temperature, colder is a better bet.  I always add some sugar to my starter, even if the recipe doesn't call for it.  I also agitate the water just a bit, and let it sit, undisturbed for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes you should see the yeast bubbling. If you don't see yeast action, your yeast is a no-go! Another tip is to keep your kitchen warm to foster yeast development. I always turn my oven on to 350 and keep it running the entire time I'm making dough.  
In an 8-quart bowl, crack the 7 eggs, and mix.  In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups of sugar, oil, salt and boiling water.  I use water from a hot water pot-at this point, you don't need to be worried about "killing" anything!  Mix with a wooden spoon.  I also didn't measure my bowls! I am limited on large bowls, so I just use the 2 largest ones I had-a large mixing bowl and the mixing bowl that belongs to the mixer, and it all worked out fine!  

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About 10 minutes later, after the yeast is proofed/"alive" add it to the eggs.  Add in the sugar and oil mixture made previously.  Stir, and begin adding the flour.  Plan to add all the flour over the course of 3 additions. Just mix well with a wooden spoon until it's incorporated before adding more flour.  

Kneading the dough is the most physically challenging part.  Sprinkle flour onto your surface and knead the dough for 10-15 minutes.  I definitely did not manage to knead that long and my dough was fine.  Be aware-your dough is meant to be sticky at this point!  I leave my dough as sticky as I can because too much flour will make it too dry.  The way I measure is based on how it sticks to my hand-if I have to wipe it off, it's too sticky and needs more flour.  However, if I can use dough to stick it off, than it's "stickiness" is just right!  I then spray the dough with cooking oil which prevents it from sticking to the side of the bowl(s).  Even though the dough is now in one large ball, if you used two bowls, separate it into two, otherwise if will quickly overflow from the one bowl. Cover the bowl(s) with a damp cloth and place near a warm place in your kitchen, like an oven.  

Let the dough raise for 2-3 hours. I usually end up doing 3 hours, it just allows me to get more things done.  Remove the dough, separate out to make a blessing, and then separate the dough into challahs.  This recipe will make 6 or 7 challahs. You can decide how big or small you want your challahs, if you want rolls, or you just want to give some dough to your kids to play around with and make their own shapes of challah! Braid accordingly, and then place in the pan, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes.  Brush the raised challah with a beaten egg and if you prefer toppings, now is the time to add.  I did everything topping and honey topping this time. 

Bake for about 30 minutes at 350!  

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There are so many different ways to braid challah!!!

Challah: How to Braid Bread | Pavlova Sundays:  

And check out this video for all sorts of different braiding methods!

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