Around 7 tonight I went over to a friend’s house so that she could show me how to make challah. I’ve never made it before, and it’s time, and she’s been doing it every week for years. Of course, I showed up, and we got talking, and then there was a last-minute trip to the store for yeast that wasn’t past its usability, and then there were kids in and out, and then finally we did it. It’s really not that complicated, i was kind of surprised. But grateful to have an old hand there to show me that yes, you really do need to add that much flour, or how to knead in a way that’s easier, or whatever.
By the time we finished all this, it was 10:30pm or so, and I was due at the Boogie, where a) I’d promised friends I’d meet them and b) I could feel the sirens beckoning me to shake a tail feather. But what, I wasn’t going to get to taste my first-ever challah?? So, after separating out the tithe from the dough, we took me a bread-sized chunk of dough and put it in a tinfoil pan, covered it with a paper towel, and I took my challah to the Boogie to rise.
I got to the Boogie–it was most excellent fun, lots of drums and stupid American pop and Israeli classics from the 80’s and an electronic version of some Bluegrass song that merged somehow into a remix of “V’samachta v’hagecha” and some other stuff. Anyway, I danced my tush off and my dough rose, quietly, on a speaker in the corner, tucked away and protected by my jacket. After a few hours I snuck over there, punched down the dough and kneaded it for a little bit, then braided it and returned to dancing.
I got home a little while ago–the thing has risen impressively, and is now in the oven. It’s almost 3am here, I’m REALLY ready for bed, but it should only be a few more minutes. I hope it came out OK! I’m sorry that I couldn’t have sat through the whole process with my friend–did I let it rise enough? Did I knead it enough the second time? I’ll only know tomorrow, when I get to taste the thing.
In any case, here’s the recipe. According to my friend (who is a rabbi), these amounts give you enough that you should be permitted to tithe and make the blessing over it–I don’t remember what the minimum is, please check yourself and don’t take my word for it. This makes a lot of bread (my friend has 5 kids and guests over every Shabbos, plus sometimes they give challot away). Anyway, in a very large bowl (like large salad bowl):
5 cups lukewarm water
1 cup sugar (stir it into the water)
then add 1 packet yeast until it bubbles (um, looks like it’s got jacuzzi jets coming from the bottom–not surface bubbles, but a process in the water itself)
then stir in: 1 cup oil (canola is good for no noticable taste)
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup honey (less if you don’t like sweet challot)
2 tbs salt
Then, add the flour, slowly, stirring as you go. It’s something in the neighborhood of 5 lbs (again, you’ll have to look up the exact amount you need in order to tithe–this is not a psok halakha).. basically, until the dough stops being sticky and becomes something you can work with. No sticky dough!
THen knead the dough for something like 18-20 min (easier if you do it in half or thirds–less dough to work with). Put it in a nice ball shape, leave it somewhere warmish with a towel over it for a couple of hours, and when it’s doubled in size, punch it down and knead it some more. Then tithe and bless (if you’re baking with enough flour to do so), separate it out into individual loaves, and braid them, or make them animal shapes or whatever you want, and then let them rise again. After it’s doubled in size again, bake it until it sounds kind of hollow when you knock on its little challah shell and it seems to be bread. (We’re getting there, I just checked the oven again.)
Expert challah bakers, anything to add or correct from this?
In other news, the tefillin Barbie that Jen (not me! Jen!) made has been making some serious rounds on the internet, it seems, kind of ironically described in a number of places as “Barbie dressed up for Simchat Torah” (because I included her in my first post-hag report–silly people, read the dang post) and credited to me. Now, this is wrong not only because it was not my Barbie, but duh, Barbie is frum enough to know that one doesn’t wear tefillin on Yom Tov! So of course now the internet thinks I’m an idiot–which is fine–and that Barbie doesn’t know basic halakha, which really, really bothers me.
Mazal tov on making your first challah! Baking (bread in general; challah in particular) is one of my favorite things to do. Back when I was in college and going through an ambivalent phase about my relationship with Jewish practice, I finagled a schedule that allowed me to bake challah every Friday, and it was the most awesome way to stay connected.
Also, I love the mental image of your dough rising quietly on top of a speaker with your jacket covering it. 🙂
Silly people who think that Barbie would wear tefillin on Simchat Torah. That’s assur!
WEll, at least in the RAvnet world they know better. It was posted credited to you (not to Jen, either, but what can you do) and was cited as “egal minyan Ken not included.” SO, not as chag mistake either.
Your recipe is quite different from mine, but it sounds yummy. Maybe I’ll try it that way next time.
She taught me how to make my first challah, too. Last May. I was thinking of trying on my own again this week or next. Thanks for her recipe!