We make Challah every Friday, not because we’re practicing Jews (though Zena and Daniel are Jewish) but because we like the idea of a weekly ritual where we come together and eat a nice meal and drink some wine. The kids love saying the Shabbat prayer and taking turns lighting the candles. We always make two loaves of Challah, one of which is devoured at supper and the other of which becomes french toast on Sunday.
Traditionally, the double loaf commemorates the “manna” that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. The manna is said to have been found on the ground every morning, about the size of hoarfrost and tasting of honey.
This recipe is adapted from a Joy of Cooking recipe.
In the morning:
Mix together in a large bowl:1 cup lukewarm water 4.5 tsps fast acting yeast 2.5 tsp salt 6 tbsp sugar 6 tbsp. olive oil 4 whole farm-fresh eggs 3 egg yolks (save the whites in a small bowl) 1 cup all purpose flour Add: 4-5 more cups of flour, up to half of which you can sub. whole wheat, spelt, or whatever your fancy.
Knead until you start to get a bit sore (6-9 minutes) Put dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat it and cover with wrap or a plastic bag. Place by the woodstove (but not too close!) or somewhere else warm for a couple hours or until doubled in size.
Punch down and let rise again, a bit longer, depending on how much time you have. Then punch down again, divide into 8 (or 6 for 3-strand loaves) equal balls, and stretch the balls into ropes. This is easier if you let them sit a few minutes before stretching. Braid the strands together, pinching the ends together and tucking them under prettily. Then place the loaves (not too close together!) on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush them with the reserved egg white, cover loosely and let sit again until nicely risen.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 F.
Sprinkle your loaves with:a couple tsps of sesame seeds, nigella or poppy seeds
Bake for about half hour until golden. The loaf should have a nice hollow thunk when you tap the bottom. Remove to a rack to cool and eat fresh with butter. Yum! And don’t forget to wait a day or two and have french toast with the left overs- double yum!