Challah-Making 101

I am lucky enough to have wonderful friends in my life that are more like family.  And I had the opportunity to spend the day with theses ‘ladies’ or ‘ya-ya’s’ as we call them learning how to make Challah bread.  Our day began at 8:30 AM (one must rise early to begin making bread) and the 6 of us were all set with a days worth of treats, magazines and knitting.

I have had this date on my calendar for months.  In the fall, we were so impressed with the homemade challah at the holidays that we knew we needed a private lesson in baking it.  Luckily, we have an experienced baker amongst us who is also a great teacher.  She prepared some of the measurements ahead of time and kept us on track throughout the day. 

Our first step was combing active-dry yeast with warm water and then adding flour (regular not bread flour) and sugar.  This mixture is then  covered with a paper towel and placed in a warm oven to rise.  I learned to use a warm oven that has been shortly preheated and then turned off.  I didn’t get any pictures of this step because I was busy chatting and eating, but don’t worry, there are plenty of pictures to come.

Meanwhile, add sliced margarine to a mixture of flour, sugar and salt.  We learned an interesting technique using two knives to slice the margarine and then using a cutting pattern to blend in the margarine until there are no visible lumps.  You have 30 minutes to do this while the yeast mixture rises.

After 30 minutes, beat eggs in a separate bowl.  Add the egg mixture to the yeast mixture (pulled from the warm oven).

Then add your margarine mixture and stir.

Knead well on a floured surface (we used a table) adding more flour (no more than 2 cups) if sticky.  We also added pre-soaked golden raisins (but this is optional).

Then place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a paper towel.  Place back in the warm oven for 2 hours (or until dough has doubled in size).

What to do for 2 hours?  When you’ve got a room full of ladies (and LIT’s or ladies in training), the time goes by quickly!

Again, lightly knead the dough for a minute or two on a floured surface.  Then divide into sections depending on how many loaves you want to make.  We did 4 loaves and divided the bread by twisting it into sections.

Braid the loaves and then place in an oiled pan.

Again, cover the loaves with a paper towel and place back in the oven.  Each time, quickly heat the oven and then turn it off before placing the bread inside.  This time, the bread is left in for as long as you can (up to 4-5 hours).  The longer it sits, the lighter the loaves will be.  I know it’s tough, but use the oven light to check your bread…don’t peek!

What is one to do for 4 hours?  Well, lunch and shopping of course!!!  Plus, some discussion of cooking and baking.  We even got an impromptu lesson in cupcake dipping in a ganache glaze (and a sample of the frosting).  AND we began discussing a date for our next kitchen adventure.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early to pick up our Bike the Drive  packets for next weekend.  Luckily, my friend (also the Sugar Coated Chef) took some final pictures for me.  Brush the top of the bread with beaten egg, vanilla and sugar.  Add sesame or poppy seeds if desired.  Finally, bake the bread at 350 for 20 minutes.

It is hard to share how special this day was to me in just pictures of bread.  Having a full day to spend with some fun and inspirational women is something I will always remember!!!  Especially when I attempt baking Challah again.  Thank you!

NOW…to taste test my bread!

I enjoyed my bread for lunch today with cranberry tuna. I will share some with the BOY tonight when he gets home from work and then freeze the rest for the weeks to come.  I will definitely try making some homemade Challah French Toast too!  Yum!

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