By Meredith Jacobs
(Harper), Meredith L. Jacobs
I remember so clearly when I learned to make this challah. My daughter, the one who I just took to college for her freshman year, was in pre-school. It was right around the High Holidays. I walked down the school stairs and the air was filled with the warm smell of fresh challah. Her teacher had made it for the class and then distributed recipes to the moms. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to make challah with my children--help them get involved in the preparation and also, playing with dough would help their fine motor development. I made the dough, divided it in two and gave half to my then 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. I helped them roll each half into long ropes and then circle it around and around (as if you were rolling a rag rug).
The process took all day (I've since learned how to make challot much faster--of course, it's faster when you're not being assisted by a 2 and 4-year-old). But there was nothing like the smell of the challah baking or the taste of the homemade challah. As my mother always said, the house felt like yontif. And that challah was the first in years of weekly homemade challah that brought family and friends to my table each week.
2 cups lukewarm water
3/4-cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 envelopes yeast (each envelope is equal to 2 1/4 teaspoons, so three envelopes is approximately 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoon yeast)
1/4-cup lukewarm water
8-10 cups bread flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine sugar, 2 cups water, oil and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Then add the eggs to the sugar mixture.
In a separate cup, mix the yeast in 1/4 cup water. Make sure the water is warm--not cold or hot. Then add the yeast mixture to the first mixture.
Add 4 or 5 cups of flour and mix well. Gradually add 4 or 5 more cups of flour. By judging the feel you will know how much more to add--if the mixture is sticky, add more flour; if it's dry and stringy, add a little water. At this point, it may be easier to mix with your hands than with a spoon.
Now you're ready to knead. Knead dough until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth.
Once you're finished kneading, pour a little bit of vegetable oil on a paper towel and wipe it around the inside of a clean bowl. Put the dough in the oiled bowl and flip the dough over so both sides get a little bit of oil on them. Lay a piece of wax paper over the bowl and then place a dish fowl on top of that. Allow to rise for an hour.
After an hour, punch down and knead for a few minutes. Allow to rise for second time for another 1/2 hour.
After 1/2 hour, braid to shape into traditional round High Holiday loaf (do this on a cookie sheet). Drizzle honey on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes.
Enjoy! And from my family to yours, have a very sweet New Year.
Yield: 2-3 loaves
Recipes: Kosher, parve, challah, bread