Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bake a Challah for Shabbat San Diego

Love a challah? You know, that sweet egg bread that's traditionally baked for Friday night Sabbath, or Shabbat, dinners in Jewish households. I'm passionate about this soft rich bread, whether broken apart at the Sabbath meal, used as sandwich bread for egg salad, or turned into French toast. My mom dries it out and uses it to make our family's beloved chestnut stuffing for Thanksgiving.

This Thursday, Nov. 10 you can take part in one of three Mega Challah Bake events. They're the kick-off events that mark Shabbat San Diego this weekend. San Diego's Jewish community will be one of 1,000 cities in 90 countries sharing a traditional Shabbat day or rest as part of the worldwide "Shabbos Project"--an event that started in 2014. Locally, that includes hosted Shabbat dinners on Friday, Nov. 11, morning services and lunch at various congregations the following day with afternoon study and lectures, and then a free Unity Havdalah Celebration Saturday evening at the San Diego Civic Theatre downtown at 7:30. The havdalah ceremony at sunset on Saturday marks the end of Shabbat.

Want to make your own challah? It's easy. It's the first bread I learned how to bake when I was a child. Traditionally, it's sprinkled with sesame and poppy seeds, but you can do a egg wash with cinnamon sugar topping or incorporate raisins or other dried fruit into the dough. The only real challenge is learning how to braid it--and there are different styles for doing it, including a six-strand method. During the year, the bread is shaped into a long loaf. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year just celebrated a month ago, the dough is braided into a round loaf.

Traditional Challah
Makes 1 loaf
(printable recipe)

1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus another couple of teaspoons to oil the bowl
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten for wash
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds

Dissolve the year and sugar in a bowl with the water. Let stand for 2 minutes until the yeast foams.

Add salt, oil, and eggs. Mix well. Gradually add the flour. Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead for 7 minutes or until smooth.

Clean and oil the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise about an hour or until it's close to doubled in size. Punch it down, cover it, and let it rise again for about half an hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and braid it by separating the dough into three equal parts. Gently roll each part into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the logs next to each other vertically in front of you. Starting from the top, pinch together the ends of the three logs, then gently braid them until you reach the bottom. Pinch the ends at the bottom together and tuck both ends underneath the loaf.

Cover lightly with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it rise a second time for half an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Remove the plastic wrap/towel and brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle the seeds. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until nicely brown.

Mega Challah Bakes will take place at:
  • San Diego Jewish Academy 6:30 pm (11860 Carmel Creek Rd) -All Welcome
  • Tifereth Israel Social Hall 6:30 pm (6660 Cowles Mountain Blvd) -All Welcome
  • Beth Jacob Social Hall 5:30 pm (4855 College Ave) -Women and Girl's Only Challah Bake

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