I have tried many different challah recipes over the years and time and time again, this one has risen to the top.
It’s from the Chabad of Brentwood. My family has voted it, the hands-down WINNER. Yipeeeeee……In fact I get shouted, at if I try anything new. It’s got just the right amount of sugar and the most incredible taste and texture. And the best part is it is flop proof and you can add anything you like to make it your own.
My childhood friend Bernice Berson put together something explaining the symbolism of the challah and each ingredient of the dough. She sent it to me and I absolutely loved it. I am so happy she agreed to let me share it with you (Thanks Bern).
The first time Jews observed Shabbat, was when the Manna fell for our ancestors wandering through the desert. On Friday they collected double for Shabbath, so it is customary to have 2 challahs.
We braid each one with three strands. Together,we have six strands, for the six days of the week preceding the Shabbath. By braiding them, we are bringing those six days together, creating unity and harmony in our lives by celebrating Shabbat.
Challah embodies the concept of taking something physical and elevating it to the spiritual.
Not only are we giving physical nourishment to the people that are eating our challah, they are also being nourished spiritually with the ideas and blessing that we are thinking of and praying for while we are making our challah.
There are seven basic ingredients in a challah recipe; water, yeast, sugar, eggs, oil, flour, and salt. There is a special eighth ingredient that is unique to each and every one of us, and that is our souls. When we are making the challah we are putting our personal energy into the dough.
As we add each ingredient we can add a new blessing to our dough, which will enhance the spiritual blessings, for whoever is eating our challah will also ingest these blessings.
Represents Torah. Just as we cannot live without water, we also cannot live without Torah. Water brings life and nourishment to all things, so it represents the attribute of chesed (kindness). As we add the water, we can think of something in our lives that we want G-d to bless us within abundant kindness. It should flow down into our lives, just as water flows.
Represents rising to the top, reminding ourselves that no matter what the obstacle or the challenge we come across, as individuals or as Jews, we will always prevail, always succeed; coming up stronger, and better than ever. The prophets tell us we are going to appoint the Messiah with oil – the symbol of our ultimate rise to the top.
Enables our dough to rise. Yeast represents growth and expansion. It also represents humility, because the challah rises to great heights but with the touch of the finger you can deflate it. The same is true with our growth, Arrogance is just inflated air but growth with humility is real growth. So as we add the yeast, we can think of each one of our family members and friends and pray that they grow and expand in their emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Yeast also represents rising, rising to our full potentials. We ask that G-d help all of us rise to who we are meant to be in our fullest potential. Yeast in Hebrew is shmarim which comes from the same root shomer, which means protection. As we add the yeast, we should pray for protection for ourselves, our families, Israel, the IDF, and all of the Jewish people.
Represent the renewal of the lifecycle and the potential of what is about to “hatch.” Again, while making the dough, we pray for life, children, and anything going on in our lives that we want God to reveal to us.
Represents anything sweet in our lives, all the revealed good. We ask G0d for open blessings and open good at this time. Sugar also represents emunah (faith). When we have the proper faith then everything becomes sweet. Even the challenges in our lives we realize are all from G-d and all for the best.
Represents discipline or criticism. Salt an element that remains the same, whether in heat or cold-It is important to have this, but in smaller measure. When adding the salt we should shake a little off the top. As much as we feel we need to rebuke others, we could always give a little less rebuke than we feel is necessary. Salt also represents purification. We pray that anything that is toxic in our lives, minds, souls, and bodies be removed.
Represents sustenance, not only our livelihood but also our relationships with others. We pray that G-d should bless us with a livelihood that we should use for the right reasons, and that He helps us sustain a relationship that might need some assistance, and thank Him for the relationships we do have that sustain us.
Kneading the dough aka DOUGH THERAPY
The last step in making the dough is to take all of these essential ingredients that bring their own important blessings and unify them. We think about the oneness of God and the oneness of the Jewish people, and as we knead the dough this is also a special time to pray for anything you, your family, friends, or the world needs. We then let the dough rise.
Make a brocha on the dough.
At this time we can ask Hashem for a blessing for ourselves and those around us – ברוך אתה “ אלהינו הלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה / Boruch Atoh Ado-nay Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kidshanu B’mitzvosav V’tzivanu L’hafrish Challah / Blessed are You, Lord our G d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.
I want to thank you for being part of my community. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does. I consider myself so humbled and blessed to be able to share in your Shabbos in some small way. I couldn’t do what I do without each of you. You are my family.
Wishing you only love, light, and blessings. May the light of your candles illuminate your homes and your hearts.
xxx Chef MM
CHALLAHFOR THE WET INGREDIENTS5 cups of luke warm water5 tspn active yeast2 TBS sugar4 eggs½ cup oilFOR THE DRY INGREDIENTS14 cups (5lbs/2.25 KG) all-purpose…
FOR THE WET INGREDIENTS
- 5 cups of luke warm water
- 5 tspn active yeast
- 2 TBS sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup oil
FOR THE DRY INGREDIENTS
- 14 cups (5lbs/2.25 lb) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 TBS salt
FOR THE TOPPINGS
- 1 egg (for wash)
- Chocolate chips, olives, sesame or poppy seeds, cinnamon sugar, herbs de Provence, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, sprinkles etc…
In a bowl combine the lukewarm (not boiling) water with the yeast and sugar. Allow the mixture to activate for 10 minutes till a foam begins to form on top. Add the eggs and oil and whisk to combine.
In a large bowl combine half the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients and mix them together. Add the remaining half of the flour and mix to incorporate everything.
Turn the dough onto the counter and knead for 10 minutes. If the dough is sticky add flour till you get the right consistency. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover it with a tablespoon of oil.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in the refrigerator overnight. If you choose this option allow it to come to room temperature before braiding.
Alternatively, you can cover the dough with a damp dishtowel and allow it to rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size.
Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C
Once the dough has risen, make the brocha **** and shape the challahs.
Place each challah onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with a beaten egg. Sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. Allow the challah to rise again for a further 20 minutes.
Bake the challah for 20-25 minutes or until the bottom is brown.