“But raisins make the challah sweeter, Yussie!”
“I don’t like raisins. Just plain!”
“Don’t worry, Yuss. I’ll just make one challah with raisins.”
“Some plain and one with raisins, and no seeds.”
Yosef enjoys challah, but to his specifications. I happen to enjoy challah with raisins and without, but I’m not a fan of seeds, regardless. My husband, on the other hand, seems to relish challah topped with poppy seeds. When the seeds are available (meaning when I can find them easily in the cabinet), I will add some to at least one challah. Raisins, although tasty, are a more difficult addition to the dough, so that is not a frequent occurrence.
“We will need extra challah next week, Yussie.”
“What holiday is coming up, Yuss?”
“Yussie, you know it’s not going to be Pesach—and besides we eat matzah on Pesach!”
“Just joking,” Yussie responds with a big smile on his face. Yosef loves telling jokes, and loves even more the amused reactions when he says something so silly.
Shavuot is upon us, and with that some more challah. To be honest, I am not much of a cook or a baker, but my specialty for the past few years has been challah. Yussie often joins me on Friday mornings (by about 6:30–6:45) while I am preparing the dough. Depending how early the process begins, Yussie sometimes has an opportunity to do a bit of kneading before the bus comes.
Before I wish you all a happy and healthy Shavuot, I want to leave you with my favorite challah recipe. This recipe works well in a power mixer or by hand.
Phyllis Lubin’s Challah Recipe
3 cups warm water
7½ tsp. Gefen (or Red Star) bagged yeast
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup honey
3 tsp. salt
10–12 cups of high-gluten flour
Pour the water into the bowl. Follow with the yeast and sugar. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Follow with the eggs, oil, honey, and salt. Mix together and slowly mix in the flour.
Once the flour is incorporated into the dough, you will need to knead the dough (by hand or in the mixer) another 5 to 10 minutes. The amount of flour actually used depends on the consistency of the dough (you don’t want it too sticky or dry).
Once the dough is finished, place in an oiled bowl. With this amount of flour, I usually split the dough into two bowls since it will rise a lot. Let the dough rise for about an hour and punch down (I usually punch the dough down after Lea’s bus leaves at 7:45 Friday mornings, but not absolutely necessary).
You should let the dough rise another hour and then shape into challot. I usually let the dough rise much longer while I’m at work. Upon my return home from work (around 1 on Fridays, since HAFTR has an early Friday dismissal) a couple of daughters and I shape the challah into loaves after pulling off a small portion of challah and saying the berachah for hafrashat challah.
We try to always make enough to share with my parents and in-laws. One of Yussie’s and Lea’s favorite activities on Friday afternoons is the challah deliveries!
After the challah is shaped, let rise at least another hour (or more if you have the time). Brush the risen challot with egg. Place in a preheated oven at 200° (that’s a trick I learned from my good friend Ruchie) for about 10 minutes. This give the challot quality rising time! After the 10 minutes have passed, turn the oven up to 350° and bake until nicely browned (about 20–30 more minutes, depending on the size of the challot). Let cool and then place in plastic bags. Freshly baked challah freezes very nicely so you can always make some in advance (I usually don’t, since Yussie enjoys the dough preparation every Friday morning—and I do too!).
I hope you enjoy your Shavuot delicacies, and perhaps try to make some freshly baked challah to make your yom tov extra special! v
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children: Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea and now a new daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.