You may not know all the prayers that are prescribed for everything we do, but I bet you at least know the candle-lighting blessing (for both Shabbat and Hanukkah!), and Motzi. Am I right?
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu, melech ha’olam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.
(I’m humming along as I type this… So catchy!)
“Blessed are you, God, who brings forth bread from the earth.”
I have a follow-up: “Blessed be the baker who has time for two dough rises, for s/he kicks my ass at time management.”
This recipe is for the rest of you who think you don’t have time to bake bread.
Amazing bread. Bread that will remind you of racing to the bimah at Friday night services when they call the pre-b’nei mitzvah kids up for Motzi. Bread that will welcome friends and truly make your Shabbats a sanctuary in time, like good holidays should. Not to mention — bread that makes the most incredible bread pudding a day or two later.
I’ve made other challah recipes; Joan Nathan’s Ultimate Challah (from “Jewish Holiday Baking”) is superb. It also requires you handle it three times over the course of three hours (you can also start the night before). In my book, it is totally worth it for major holidays if you can find the time.
However, I don’t like to have challah only a small handful of times a year. I would prefer to have it everyday, but I at least like to have some for Friday night dinner. What’s a girl (or boy) to do? Make “easy challah.” Just remember to keep the (short list of) ingredients on hand.
The amazing thing about this recipe? If you mess it up and put all the ingredients in at once, you’ll still have really, really good bread. I made this mistake and decided to keep it and see what happened. The side-by-side photos show you how it’s supposed to look on the left and what it will look like if you skip ahead on the right. In the end, the bread made according to the directions will be sweet with an almost buttery, pastry flavor and quality; the one made with all the ingredients at once will have more of a tangy sourdough flavor that’s less sweet (I bet you could add a bit more sugar to account for that).
Makes: 1 loaf (but I recommend making two batches at once)
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1/4 C sugar
1/2 C oil
3/4 C lukewarm water
3 3/4 C flour (bread flour is best, but all-purpose flour will work just fine)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
- Mix yeast with 3/4 c. flour and some of the sugar.
- Pour water over mixture, mix well and let sit for about 20 minutes until it puffs up.
- Add oil, eggs, and sugar. Mix well, then add the remainder of the flour and salt and mix for a few minutes. Add a little more flour if too sticky.
- Let the dough rise for a couple of hours. (I suggest you get this far on Friday morning before work, then finish it when you get home in the evening). Knead briefly (2-4 minutes), then form shapes on a baking sheet. Although braiding is traditional, I’m not skilled enough at it to do it on a regular basis. I make a ball by forming a long oval with the dough, then folding the closest two sides into the center, then pulling the ends over those to the middle and flipping it over on the baking sheet to secure them. If you want to add raisins or nuts, do it when you knead the dough. You can coat the bread with seeds (sesame, poppy, etc.) after you shape it.
- Bake on a baking sheet at 350 F for 35-40 minutes.
So you took my advice and doubled the recipe and now you have a whole loaf of challah left to love? Make bread pudding! If you have a favorite recipe, by all means. But, I whipped this one up and it was a.maze.ing. Seriously. The whiskey adds a lovely depth of flavor that complements the vanilla, and there’s just enough sweetness between the sugar and the apples to feel indulgent.
Amazing Apple-Challah Bread Pudding
As much of a loaf of challah as possible, torn into small (~1″ chunks/cubes)
1/2 C plain yogurt (I used fat-free)
3 C milk (again, fat-free is fine)
1 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1 oz Jack Daniels whiskey, or other similar spirit of your choice
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C diced apples (about 2 small), the tarter the better
- Toast bread chunks in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 300 F, until dry. (If your bread is leftover long enough to be dry, you can skip this step. It simply ensures the bread will soak up the liquid.)
- While the bread is toasting, whisk the remaining ingredients (except for the apples) together in a bowl.
- Butter a baking dish.
- Toss toasted bread and apples together in the baking dish.
- Pour the liquid/egg mixture over the bread and apples. Sprinkle liberally with sugar (Turbinado/”in the raw” if you have it). Do not cover.
- Bake 45 minutes at 350 F or until there’s barely any liquid in the bottom (a little will absorb post-baking).
- Serve warm or room-temperature.