Making Bread the Old Fashioned Way AKA Challah 101

        One of the most basic and satisfying of foods to come out of a Jewish kitchen

is bread. Challah, of course is number on the hit parade. It’s significance in our life

and life cycle events is undeniable. Recipes tend to be handed down from generation

to generation and while they may vary slightly they all are pretty much the same. Challah, that wonderful bread that’s usually eaten on the Shabbos, assumes an entirely new personality when we prepare it for the holidays. Instead of the traditional braided loaf, the Rosh Hashanah challah is round – symbolizing the cycle of the New Year. There is also a tradition to design a challah ladder or challah birds are added to the holiday challah by some families to commemorate the prayers rising to Heaven.

      There are, however a multitude of other breads that have woven there way into

our collective Yiddish hearts (and mouths) and landed on our hips due to our

ancestors proclivity for wandering from country to country picking up recipes from

where ever they managed to find a home. We may not have had a lot of permanent

residences but, by gosh, we had great bread.

     Nowadays, we all tend to settle for the prepackaged, bland and boring stuff that

passes for bread. Yes, there are bakeries that can produce wonderful flavorful loaves

but let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like the smell, taste and satisfaction that comes

from homemade bread.

     Making bread is far easier than most people think. You need to follow a few

simple guidelines and you shouldn’t have any problems.

     First, yeast is not the enemy. It’s just a plant and it’s really not too difficult to

use once you realize that the temperature of the water used to activate the yeast

should be between 105 to 115 degrees. Any cooler or hotter and you run the risk of

not having it activate.

     Letting the dough rise twice is also a must. The dough needs the chance to

form gluten (the structure of the bread) and letting it rise twice lets that happen.

     The following recipes are simple straightforward examples of classic breads.

Once you try them you’ll never go back to the too the stuff from the store.  

RYE BREAD

2 tablespoons yeast

2 1/2 cups

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons shortening, melted and cooled slightly

2 1/2 cups rye flour

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

6 cups flour

In a bowl combine the water, honey and yeast. When the yeast bubbles add the salt

and shortening. Mix well. Add the rye flour and caraway seeds. Add enough white

flour to form a soft dough. Knead for about 5 minutes and add more flour if the dough

is too soft and sticky. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise until the

dough is double in size. Punch the dough down and place the dough on a floured

surface. Knead 3 or 4 times and shape into 2 free form loafs and let rise until double

in size. Preheat oven to 400. Take a sharp knife and make several criss cross cuts

across the top of the loafs. Bake for 35 minutes. You can glaze with water just before

and after baking if you like. Makes 2 loafs.

BLACK BREAD

3/8 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup cold water

3/4 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar plus 1 teaspoon

1 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon instant coffee

2 packages yeast

1/4 cup warm water

2 cups dark rye flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups flour

1 egg white beaten with 2 tablespoons water

In a bowl combine the cornmeal and the cold water and mix well. In a saucepan boil

the water. Pour the cornmeal mixture into the boiling water and mix until the mixture

thickens and bubbles. Stir in the butter, salt, sugar, caraway seeds, cocoa and instant

coffee. Remove from heat and cool slightly. In another bowl dissolve the yeast in the

1/4 cup water and add to the other mixture and stir. Place the liquid mixture into a

large bowl or mixing bowl and gradually mix in the flours. Add a little more water if

necessary. The dough should, however, be slightly sticky. Place the dough on a

floured surface and knead with additional flour if necessary until the dough is firm and

elastic. Place dough into a greased bowl and cover. Let rise until double in size.

Punch down and form two round loafs or place the dough in two greased loaf pans.

Preheat oven to 375. Let rise until double in size and brush the top of the bread with

the beaten egg whites and water mixture. Bake 375 for 50 to 60 minutes. Error on the

side of over baking if you have doubts about whether or not the bread is done. Makes

2 loafs  

PUMPERNICKEL BREAD

2 tablespoons yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1/4 cup molasses

1 cup potatoes, mashed

1 tablespoon shortening

2 cups boiling water

1 1/4 tablespoon caramel coloring

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

4 cups rye flour

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

5 cups flour

In a small bowl combine the yeast with the sugar and warm water. Set aside. In a

large bowl combine the salt, molasses, mashed potatoes, and shortening. Pour the

boiling water over these ingredients and mix well. Cool. When the potato mixture is

lukewarm add the yeast mixture to it and mix.  Stir in the coloring to the desired color.

Combine the cornmeal with the rye flour, caraway seeds and all but 1 cup of the white

flour. Stir in the liquid to the flour mixture and mix ell until it comes away from the side

of the bowl. Turn the dough out on to a floured board and knead with enough flour to

form a soft dough. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Knead again and add a little

more flour if necessary and place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until

the dough is double in size. Punch the dough down place the dough on a floured

surface. Knead a few times and shape into two round loafs. Brush the top of the loafs

with water, place the loafs on greased baking sheet and let rise until the loafs double

in size. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Remove the loafs from the oven and cool on

racks. Makes 2 loafs

ONION BREAD

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup luke warm water

2 packages yeast

4 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2/3 cup oil

1 3/4 cup warm water

8 cup flour (approx.)

2 grated onions

1 tablespoons salt

1/2 cup poppy seeds

1/2 cup melted butter or margarine

In a small bowl dissolve sugar in the 1/2 cup water. Sprinkle the yeast on top (let set

10 min.)  Mix in the eggs, sugar, 1 T. salt, oil, water and 1/2 the flour. Mix well and

add the rest of the flour. Let the dough rise for about 30 to 40 min and punch down.

Divide the dough into 3 portions and roll each section out to about 1/2 inch thick (sort

of like a pizza). Prick the top with a fork and place on greased cookie sheet. Preheat

oven to 400 and let the dough rise 10 to 15 min. In a small bowl combine the

remaining ingredients. Divide the onion/poppy seed mixture between the three loafs

and spread it over the top. Bake 20 min. and cool slightly before serving. Makes 3

loafs.

NO FAIL HONEY FRENCH BREAD

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/3 cups water

1-1/2 tablespoon honey

3 cups bread flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon yeast

Combine all wet ingredients, then add dry ingredients on top. Use Normal bread cycle

SWEET MONKEY BREAD (dairy or pareve)

Monkey bread recipes call for a sweet yeast dough that you form by arranging small clumps of dough in 3 or 4 overlapping layers in a pan. The pan used to bake monkey bread recipes can be round, oblong or tube-shape. When baked, the lumps cling together to form a solid loaf. Monkey bread recipes can be sweet or savory.

 Bread Maker Recipe for Monkey Bread

1 1/8 cup milk or non dairy substitute
2 tbsp butter or pareve margarine
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 cup flour
2 teaspoons yeast

Additional:

6 tablespoons butter or pareve margarine, melted
1 cup finely chopped nuts

Remove dough from the machine when the dough cycle completes. Form into 1 inch balls, then roll them first in the melted butter and then in the chopped nuts. Placed balls in a greased tube pan or bunt pan. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

CHALLAH AND 12 ROLLS

This following was used by most people in 15th century Spain but Jewish women baked it cut into18 small rolls to last throughout the Sabbath or holiday and appear similar to their neighbors’ bread style. This recipe is adapted from A Drizzle of Honey cookbook to make one large round Rosh Hashanah Challah and about 10 to 12 small rolls.

2 pkg dry yeast
1 cup warm water, divided
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey + more for glazing the rolls
1 scant teaspoon salt
3 eggs + 1 egg for glazing the challah
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sesame seeds, optional

Stir yeast into ¼ cup warm water and a pinch of sugar; set aside for 10 minutes to proof. In a large bowl, combine remaining ¾ cup warm water, the oil and 2 tbsp honey. Beat in the eggs one at time, salt and combine well. Sift three fourths of the flour into the liquid. Stir well, adding more flour to form a moist mass. Turn onto a floured surface and knead 5 minutes. Add enough flour to make a smooth dough. Return dough to a clean oiled bowl; turn dough to coat with oil. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Grease 2 baking sheets; preheat the oven to 400º F. Knead the air bubbles out of the dough. Pinch off an egg-sized piece of dough and roll it into a 5″ circle. Fold the circle in half then in quarters, do not press together. Place 6 rolls on each baking sheets and let them rise about 30 minutes until doubled. Warm the remaining 1 tbsp honey and brush the rolls. Bake about 10 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack. Keep the oven on.

Pinch off a piece of dough slightly larger than an egg and roll it into a 12″ long rope. Knead and roll the remaining dough into one round challah and place it on a greased pan. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt and brush a 1″ wide strip down the center of the challah. Twist the rope and place it over the egg wash on top of the challah. Fasten with a few toothpicks, if necessary. Let rise about 45 minutes.

Brush the entire challah with the remaining egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake on a greased baking sheet 10 minutes. Remove the toothpicks and reduce oven to 350º F. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden and hollow sounding. Cool on a rack. Rolls and Challah may be frozen.

TRADITIONAL CHALLA RECIPE

This recipe makes 3 loaves

7 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt

 1/2 cup sugar
2 pkg yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water

Beat eggs. In a separate bowl, mix oil, sugar and salt. Add boiling water. Stir till dissolved.

Sprinkle yeast into a cup with 1/3 cup warm water. Wait until frothy, then stir.

Add cold water to oil and sugar mixture. Ensure mixture is the right temperature (lukewarm), then add yeast. Add eggs, but hold back a bit to use later for glaze.

Add flour a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Turn  the dough onto floured board and knead until dough springs back after poking with a finger. Add more flour if necessary. Return the dough to bowl, cover, and rise in warm spot until doubled. Expect this to take about 1 hour. Return to floured board and knead for a couple of minutes. Divide dough into 3 equal rolls. Knead one roll for another minute. Form roll into three long strips for braiding. Pinch the ends at one end together and braid. Pinch bottom ends together when braid is completed. Place in greased loaf pan. Do the same for the two other rolls. Rise again in warm spot for about three quarters of an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush tops with the bit of egg that you saved. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, watching carefully. Recipe challah should be brown on top but not burnt on the bottom. Remove from pans, and cool on racks

HOLIDAY BREAD MACHINE CHALLAH

3/4 cup warm water
2 eggs (large)
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup oil
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
3-2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoon yeast

1/3 cup raisins

Add ingredients to the bread maker in the order that the manufacturer recommends. Use the dough cycle.  Remove the dough from the machine. Knead in the raisins. Place the dough in a greased bowl to rise, cover and let rise until it doubles in size. Shape as desired. Bake for 30 minutes at 375. Makes 1 loaf.

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