Nothing compares to that moment on a Friday night when you are sitting with family and friends and you take that first bite of your Challah. Nothing can completely prepare you for the warmth that is about to enter your mouth, even more so when you know its homemade Challah!
It only seems right to begin my blog with one about Challah as I can actually profess that I know something about making Challah. I began making my own challah about three years ago and since there has been rarely a week that has gone by when we don’t eat them. There is no comparison to the satisfaction one gets from seeing the raw ingredients form into this amazingly unique loaf. I know I’m being arrogant but I love it when we have guests who have never been to us before and ask where we buy our Challah from. I find it amusing that my unprofessional loaf could be thought of as shop brought!
Challah is the traditional Jewish plaited bread that is served at the beginning of the Shabbat and festival meals. It derives from the bible, where the Jewish people are told… When you enter the land where I bring you, it shall be that when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall set aside a portion for God. Of the first of your dough you shall set aside a loaf as an offering; as the offering of the threshing-floor, so you shall set it aside. From the first of your dough you shall give to God an offering throughout your generations. (Numbers 15:18-21). There is a unique sweet and soft texture to the Challah, which does not equate to any other form of bread.
My hands are my best utensil when it comes to making Challah, I have never made Challah in a machine and plan never to do so (unless I develop arthritis – I am convinced I will!). I love the feeling of the gooey dough between my fingers and feeling the change in texture and consistency as you work your way through it.
I can’t take the full credit for my recipe as one of my best friends gave it to me, but I think she will now allow me to claim that I have made it my own, with a few tweaks here and there. As mentioned earlier in the ‘Welcome’, my family ( and myself) are constantly on diet and therefore I decided to develop and create my own brown Challah recipe based on the original white one. After to a few trials and errors, I began to realise that the flour needed to be 2/3 brown and 1/3 white and the sugar needed to be reduced considerably as otherwise it left you with a very sickly taste. The brown dough is quite a different consistency, and actually much easier to handle. I began to experiment different ways to shape the Challah and even began to intertwine the brown and white dough’s together. I am very proud of my brown Challah as I feel that it is truly my own creation.
There is a group on Facebook dedicated to recipes for Jewish people, who are always entertaining on Shabbat and festivals, and my recipe was placed on this groups, it is always lovely to see how many people get the same enjoyment out of it as I do.
I have one confession when it comes to Challah making… I am horrendous at braiding the challahs and I have learnt a cheat’s way. The more professional pictures of my braided Challot are done by my expert best friend (the same one who gave me the original recipe). We have had many fun times in my kitchen making Challahs together. The best one was when we had had lunch at mine with our mothers, and I brought in this incredible amount of dough for us to plait. We sat/stood at my dining room table gossiping whilst plaiting Challot.
Let me leave you with a few tips that I have worked on.
1) Only use 100% Canadian flour, ideally Marriages strong bread flour – it is by far the most superior flour in the UK market.
2) Use fresh yeast with enough sugar and salt to complement the taste.
3) Use a lightly oiled surface rather than a lightly floured surface to shape your challah, it will also leave you with a better colour once cooked.
Enjoy eating or making your own Challah and let me know of your own personal experiences.