2015-10-28 / Columns

The rebbitzin’s recipes: The craft & rituals of baking Shabbat challah

COOKING
DEBI EPSTEIN

Challah is not just a fancy loaf of bread. This is the bread of the holy Sabbath. This is the dough that our matriarch Sarah, the wife of our patriarch Abraham baked 5,000 years ago. Challah is therefore unique to the Jewish people. Various laws apply to the taking and baking of Challah.

There are three mitzvot essential to the role of the Jewish woman—the mitzvah of Challah, kindling the lights of the Sabbath, and the ritual laws of family purity, i.e. mikvah. Today’s recipe column is centered upon the laws essential to challah baking.

There is a biblical requirement after one mixes a dough to separate a portion of the dough entitled “challah.” In the days of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, this portion of dough was given to the kohen-priest in the Temple. Today, we maintain this mitzvah in the following manner:

 If a minimum of 14 cups of flour was used, we recite the blessing, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to separate challah from the dough,” (…Lehafrish Challah) and then separate a portion the size of an olive, lift in our hands and proclaim, “Harei Zu Challah.” (This is Challah.). If 7.5-14 cups of flour was used, we separate dough without a blessing.

 We burn the double wrapped dough on the stove, and dispose of it.

At each of the three Sabbath meals, two loaves of Challah are placed upon our Shabbat table. The blessing, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth (“…Hamotzai Lechem Min Haaretz)…is recited upon the challot. Challah is therefore of great significance in honoring the Sabbath.

Enjoy! My best wishes for a tasty and peaceful Shabbat!

GRANDMA’S CHALLAH
Enjoy a taste of my childhood! 6 yahrtzeit glasses of flour
2 yahrtzeit glasses of lukewarm water
1 block of fresh yeast (or 5

tsp. yeast)
4 Tbs. salt
4 Tbs. sugar
4 Tbs. margarine
2 eggs

Melt yeast in lukewarm water. Mix together the rest of the ingredients. It will form a loose dough. Let it rise covered for half an hour. Knead dough. Let it rise until doubled in size. Push dough down, and allow to rise for a second time. Shape into loaves. Place on a cookie sheet coated with oil, and sprinkled with flour. Brush challah with one beaten egg. Place in a preheated oven at 350°F for 20 minutes. Enjoy a taste of yesteryear!

Yields three large challot.

CHOCOLATE BABKA
WITH CRUMB TOPPING
Challah Dough (see recipe
above)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup 70% baking cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla sugar
Mix all of the above ingredients in a small bowl.
Crumb topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
Mix all of the above ingredients in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Take a large piece of challah dough and roll out with a rolling pin onto a flat surface. Roll dough as thinly as possible. Pour babka mixture onto dough. Spread out mixture with a spoon onto the entire surface. Roll up dough to form a log. Place crumb topping onto bottom of a loaf pan. Place babka on top of crumb topping. Place crumb topping on top of babka. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Serves 4-6.

For other delicious options, try these:

 Garlic Knots: Shape challah dough into the shape of a knot. Top with one clove garlic, peeled and minced. Spray with oil spray and bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes.

 Garlic Bread: Challah which is “leftover” can indeed be repurposed. One can slice baked challot and spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. oregano and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder. Place in oven under broiler for 3-4 minutes.

 Croutons: A second option for “leftover” challah is croutons! My family enjoys them in a Caesar salad. Take sliced challah and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place croutons single layered onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. paprika, 1/4 tsp. basil and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 5-7 minutes until browned and crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Croutons should remain uncovered for several hours in order to stay crunchy. . deb.epst@gmail.com

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