Every Friday night Jewish people around the world celebrate Shabbat: the day of rest. Growing up in a reform family, our Jewish celebrations were around the main and big holidays such as Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) , Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and Pesach (Passover). Celebrating or observing Shabbat was never a question neither a custom.
I attended a Jewish Day school since I was two years old and the way until I moved here (for junior year). At school we did celebrated Shabbat every week. Not sure if it is the pictures I have seen (from my mom's bast collection of picture album from our childhood) or that I clearly remember, but at school we use to bake Challah every Friday! Week after week, we were there, pouring ingredients in a bowl, getting our hands dirty and figuring out all about the braiding.
Later on, as I was working in a Jewish Day school in Miami, and later as a youth director I always thought cooking should be an essential part of our curriculum and was hoping to bring those memories for my students. Last week, as I was teaching the Rosh Hashanah cooking class, one of the participants said: " Wow, Romi, that's a really good braiding, how many times have you done this?" and honestly it is way more than I could remember.
All Challah recipes vary in a few things:
- yolks or eggs
- honey or sugar
- amount of water vs. amount of oil
- type of flour: all purpose, bread flour, a mix of both
For many years I jumped from one recipe to the other, taking what I liked from the previous and applying it to the new one. I finally have a good sweet recipe that I like. I use King Arthur all purpose flour because of the quality and gluten %. The oil, it is a non-flavored one: vegetable, canola, corn, or even grapeseed. I had used olive oil here and there when I want to make a rosemary or basil, or even onion and garlic challah.
There is a two step in the Challah recipe. The actual Challah dough, and the preferment dough.
The preferment dough is a mix of flour, water, yeast, and sugar. That is been done and let rest for 30 minutes . Here is where the yeast starts fermenting and the gluten web starts developing. An acidic smell will come along if you let it sit for an hour or even longer. This dough will help the challah rise and help with the flavor. I prepare the preferment dough and while I scale and prepare all the other ingredients it is usually ready. It will accelerate the process if you leave it on a warm place. I turn on the oven sometimes which will help make the environment warmer.