Challah Bread

Last holiday season, my family and I celebrated our first ever Jew Food Tuesday.

I am only half Jewish, but I’m really trying to embrace that culinary side of my family.

To say that my Jewish grandmother wasn’t much for cooking would be like saying that Mel Gibson is just a tad bit anti-Semitic.

My point is, I didn’t really have a lot of family recipes to choose from when embarking on my Jew food journey.

So when I wanted to host the second annual Jew Food Tuesday, I enlisted the help of my also half Jewish good buddy, Lindsay Y.

Her mother is active in her Jewish community and had some really awesome recipes for us to take a crack at.

The one I was the most nervous and excited to try was the recipe I’m about to share with you.

Excited because I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like.

Nervous because I’ve only attempted to work with yeast once before and it was a big fat yeasty flop.

Yes. Yeasty is a word. I know because word didn’t underline it in red.

Bottom line, yeast is easy to work with if you actually read the instructions on the back of the packet.

Something I of course failed to do last time.

You will need…

½ cup water
2 packages fast rising yeast   

½ cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons
3 eggs beaten plus 1 extra egg with a little water in it for an egg wash                    
¼ cup of canola or other mild flavored oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups warm water
3 cups bread flour (must be bread flour)
3-5 cups additional bread flour to knead in

Start by combining ½ cup warm water (read what temperature you should have the water at on the back of the yeast packet) with the yeast and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl.

Stir together until all is dissolved.  Let this proof for about 10 minutes. Proof basically let it set up.

You want it to be very bubbly when it is done.

It should look like this…

In a larger bowl, mix together the 3 eggs, ¼ cup oil, ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 cups warm water and 3 cups bread flour.  Stir to combine. 

After the yeast has set up for 10 minutes, stir in the proofed yeast mixture until combined.

Now begin to add the additional bread flour. 

At this point you can turn out the dough on to a clean, lightly floured work surface. 

After each additional cup of flour, knead bread to work in the flour.

You’ll know when the dough has enough flour added.  The dough will be smooth and elastic in texture and will be easy to knead but won’t stick to your fingers.

Form the dough into a ball

Now take the larger bowl you used to mix the ingredients and clean and dry it.  Once you’ve done that lightly oil the bowl.  Place the ball of dough in the bowl and roll it over so all sides of the dough is covered in oil. 

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a dry, warm place until it has doubled in size (about 2 hours) You’ll know the dough has doubled when you lightly poke it with two fingers and it springs back. 

Next take your fist and punch down the dough.  Knead it again and reform it into a ball.

Place the covered bowl back in the warm, draft-free place and let it rise for another 45 minutes to an hour.

Take the biggest cookie sheet you can find and butter and flour (removing the excess flour) it so the bread won’t stick. 

After the 2nd rise, divide the dough into 4 equal portions. 

With three of the portions, make three long ropes and braid them.

Remember the ropes have to fit on your treated pan with a little room for expansive growth in the oven.

Taking the last portion of dough, divide into another three portions and braid them.

Place the smaller braid on top of the larger one.  Press it down firmly or it will slide to one side in the oven.

Cover the bread and let it rise for another 45 minutes.

After the final rise, preheat the oven to 350°F and make sure the oven rack is placed in the middle portion of the oven. The bread will rise even more and needs room.

Now, brush the bread all over with the egg wash.

Bake for 45 minutes and serve with either sweet or savory toppings.

Tasty either way.

Love and Beer Floats