Thursday, August 22, 2013

Easy Braided Bread - Challah

The Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashana - is nearing, and I thought I'd share one of may favorite holiday traditions growing up.
It has to do with the bread we eat, Challah, on the first night of the holiday. This braided bread is eaten every Friday night and Saturday afternoon throughout the year, but unlike every other week, on the High Holidays it is baked into a round loaf, symbolizing renewal.


Growing up, we used to sneak the Rosh Hashana (New Year)  greeting cards we made under the bread cover (they lay covered until after everyone is seated and the wine has been blessed). When my father would uncover them, he'd always be "surprised" to find all of our handmade cards.
We make Challah bread almost every week, and it's surprisingly easy, especially if you have a Kitchenaid. Our guests are always impressed, and because we make a couple loafs we also give them as gifts no neighbors and friends.
So today I want to show you a few simple way to make any gift (especially the edible kind) look amazing - with only a few things you probably have lying around at home. With these tricks even a store bought granola bar could look amazing, here's the how to.


Wrap a piece of parchment paper (I use simple baking sheets cut into strips ) and tie a brown string around it.
The combination of parchment paper + brown string gives a rustic vibe to anything, making perfect for home baked (or store bought, I won't tell) goods.


Or, you can cut tags out of patterned paper and tie them with a piece of ribbon to your loaf. To get the nice neat bow above, wrap the ribbon around the loaf, string both ends into the whole on your tags, then tie the bow.

You can also make rolls out of the Challah dough. Just roll out the dough into a snake about the length of your hand, and tie into a knot. You can then put the rolls into this chic bread basket, which is actually a linen napkin folded and pressed is an idea I first saw on Martha Stewart blog. I used linen napkins from my collection, pressing with an iron as I folded.
This is how it's done:


Fold both edges towards the center (you can leave a bit so they don't meet each other %100), then fold the open edges back, Voila.
And the recipe for this Challah? We use a revised version of this recipe, this is what it looks like after our revision: 
1 kilo flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp dry yeast
2 eggs
1/2 cup Canola oil
1.5 cups water - add more if necessary. 
1 tbsp. sea salt

Mix all of the dry ingredients except the salt. Add the oil, eggs and water and knead into dough. You may need to add water - just until the dough is formed. It's ok if the dough is a little sticky, just make sure it's manageable. Sprinkle the salt in and knead for about 5 minutes.
Cover the dough with a plastic bag (not the bowl, the actual dough) - this will keep it moist as it rises. Let it rise for about an hour. Divide the dough into 6  and spread them on a baking sheet.Let them rise again, covered, for another 15 minutes. Braid each 3 pieces into braids, beat and brush an egg over the loaves and sprinkle with sesame and sea salt. Bake in a preheated oven (180 degrees cell) until the loaves brown - about half an hour.
How about you, dear readers? Any special holiday traditions you love? Are they always about food, like they are for me?
Let me know in the comments,
Until next time - 

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