Today I made my first attempt at challah. My mother’s family is Jewish, but I was not raised in the Jewish faith – except for lighting candles at Hanukkah and occasionally celebrating Passover with friends. I never went to temple and was never Bat Mitzvahed; we didn’t have a mezuzah outside our front door; I still don’t really know much about Rosh Hashanah. I did, however, have an abundance of Jewish food in my life. I love food. I love just about anything put on my plate, and I regularly have cravings for Brent’s Deli in Northridge, CA. My mother’s family is from The Valley and seemingly every trip to visit revolved around food and a trip to Brent’s.
Brent’s is phenomenal. It’s located in a strip mall on Parthenia St. You park, walk through the old glass doors, and are greeted with barrels of fermented deli pickles, a deli case filled with cured and fresh kosher meats and cheeses. The carpet is a dark, industrial burgundy and the seats, tables, and booths are made of oak. Waiters and waitresses pass by with trays full of blintzes, cabbage soup, kugel, and Ruben sandwiches piled high on marbled rye bread. The wait was always at least 30 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity to a child of eight, waiting to order those sweet cheese-filled blintzes.
My great aunt and great uncle used to keep a never ending supply of bagels and lox in their refrigerator and would stuff me silly when I stayed with them. I have an incredible fondness for lox and cream cheese on a poppy seed bagel, piled high with onions, tomatoes, and capers. I have since only found one deli to make them like my great aunt did, and in a very unlikely place. Stillwater, OK. If you’re in the area, check out Old School Bagel Cafe. You won’t be disappointed!
My husband has been having cravings for challah recently, so I decided to give her a go and attempt my own. I found this blog and really enjoyed her detailed explanations and discussion of the blessing. See her blog for the recipe, as well as a detailed explanation of how to braid. I have included a few photos of my own, though I didn’t fully document the dough process. This is all still new to me!
I started out by using half of the dough this recipe creates. I divided the dough into three equal portions and rolled them into three long rolls. Challah can be braided using three, four, or six strands, as well as into little delicious looking buns.
Next, start from the middle of the braid and braid toward one end, tucking the ends under.
Once half of the braid is completed, flip the braid over so braiding continues with an “over” braid, rather than an “under” braid. Continue braiding and tuck the ends under.
Once completed, transfer the braid to a quarter sheet pan, covered with parchment paper, apply half of the egg wash, and let the braid rise.
…voila!… out comes the most delicious smelling, soft, warm bread you can imagine. It’s absolute heaven. We ate
the whole loaf half of the loaf for “lunch.”
So, who has baked challah? I am excited to try more strands in the braid (six looks beautiful!) Also, was anyone else from a non-practicing Jewish family? I have more to say about this…stay tuned for more non-practicing Jewish