This Friday night will be all the sweeter when we bake and serve challah again after a two week hiatus. Was anyone else yearning for sweet, yeasty, pull apart challah instead of flat, crumbly, dry matzah?
For regular challah bakers, it will be a delicious reunion with an ancient tradition and one your family and friends are lucky to share in. For future challah bakers, here is an opportunity to learn all about this highly symbolic act that results in the most primary and recognizable component on every Shabbat and festive table, world-wide.
When Dahlia Abraham-Klein’s brilliant manual, Spiritual Kneading Through the Jewish Months; Building the Sacred through Challah, landed on my desk I realized that in my three plus years of looking for inspiration to share here, I have only posted one other challah recipe.
Considering the 50 weeks a year that we serve challah, that doesn’t seem quite right.
So I dug into Abraham-Klein’s beautifully written, deeply researched exploration of challah and found myself transported by this spiritual guide book.
The author leads us through month by month celebrations via a group she formed for women’s Torah study and challah baking. Through challah baking “Spiritual Kneaders” explore themes of the month. In her group, the women chat, knead, meditate and study as they connect ingredients with a higher meaning.
While Spiritual Kneading Through the Jewish Months can be used simply as a challah cookbook with 18 recipes ranging from Basic Challah with Fresh Yeast, Round Pull-Apart Challah with Silan and Olive Oil (below) to Wheat Stalk Challah with Parmesan Topping, it would be a wasted opportunity to NOT allow this brilliant author to take you along on a much deeper journey.
Abraham- Klein implores the reader to slow down, knead with intention, access the connection between spirituality and weekly baking. She explained it this way to me, “I want people to see and learn the sacredness of the process. It’s about accessing the intention of the month, slowing down and bringing that intention into the challah. Nothing is rushed, but savored.”
In addition to learning through Torah text, Abraham-Klein teaches all practical aspects of challah baking including kneading, braiding, shaping and separating dough for blessings.
Additional basic recipes for low gluten Spelt Challah, Whole Wheat Challah, and Gluten-Free Oat Challah are valuable additions.
With the new month of IYAR beginning this Sunday, April 19, we chose to share this highly symbolic recipe for Pull-Apart Challah with Silan and Olive Oil.
Here’s what Dahlia Abraham- Klein had to say about her recipe:
This month’s challah comprised of twelve balls (yud-bet) represents the twelve tribes of Israel who left Egypt. The heavenly bread that sustained Israel during the desert was manna, and it made it’s first appearance in the month of Iyar. The Torah describes the manna as tasting like wafers with honey, and like oil cake. To commemorate the taste of manna, this month’s challahs uses olive oil and date honey (silan).
Additional notes: Silan is an ancient condiment that may be used in place of honey or maple syrup in some recipes although the flavor is distinctive and different from those sweeteners. I use this Israeli brand in a squeezable bottle (kosher and just dates- the way it’s supposed to be). Or you can go for the challenge and make it yourself with this easy recipe from blogger pal, Tori Avey.
This volume would make an inspiring addition to anyone’s cookbook collection. I can imagine it as a great engagement or wedding gift along with a handmade challah board.
Watch for our GIVE-AWAY on Thursday. You can win this volume right here!
All photos are courtesy of Dahlia Abraham-Klein, Spiritual Kneading Through the Jewish Months; Building the Sacred through Challah.
This recipe was shared by Dahlia Abraham-Klein via "Spiritual Kneading Through the Jewish Months; Building the Sacred through Challah" 2015.
The ingredients have special meaning during the Hebrew month of Iyar when the Jewish exodus from Egypt began.
This recipe is pareve (non-dairy).
- 4 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 4 ½ cups (1.1 liters) warm water
- 2 tablespoons organic sugar
- 1 (12-ounce) container of date honey (silan)
- 5 pounds (2.25 kg) organic white flour
- 1 ½ tablespoons sea salt
- 1 cup (230 ml) olive oil
- 2 cage-free organic eggs, beaten
- Barley flakes
- Sesame seeds (optional)
- Poppy seeds (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the yeast with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and the warm water. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to start activating. Yeast activation should take about 10 minutes; it will be bubbling and foamy.
- Set 1 cup (125 g) of flour aside. Sift the remaining flour, silan honey and salt into the bowl.
- Pour the yeast mixture and oil onto the flour. Combine all the ingredients, using a spatula. When it begins to form a dough, it is time to knead. At this point, you can remove the dough from the bowl and knead on the kitchen counter if it’s easier for you, or directly in the bowl.
- To knead the dough: grab the side of the dough furthest away from you and fold it toward yourself. Fold the dough in half and use your body weight to push the dough into itself. If you find that the dough is sticking too much to the surface and preventing you from kneading properly, dust the dough with flour. Give the dough a quarter turn (90 degrees). Grab the other side and fold it in half. Again, with a lot of weight behind it, push the newly folded half into itself. Repeat this process for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, silky, elastic and the dough does not stick to the surface.
- After the dough is thoroughly prepared, lay it on the countertop while you grease the bowl with a fine layer of oil. Next, turn the dough in the oil several times so that the dough is greased lightly on all sides.
- Cover the bowl with a large plastic garbage bag or kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 1 hour.
- Make the blessing on hafrashat challah.
- Knead the dough again for a few more minutes. Use the remaining flour for the surface area and hands to prevent sticking.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and then further divide each part into 12 separate balls by rolling each one in the palms of your hands to the size of a golf ball.
- Place a larger ball in the center of the foil cake pan and the remaining balls around the center. The balls do not need to touch, as they will grow together as they rise.
- Cover the loaves again and let them rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in volume from its original size. If you cannot bake the challahs immediately, then this is the time to wrap the shaped dough in plastic wrap to prevent drying. You can store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. On the day of baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand on the kitchen counter until it comes to room temperature, about one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Prepare your egg wash and decorate the top of the challah with barley flakes or other optional toppings.
- Bake in your preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until loaves turn golden brown and shiny. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Wait at least one hour before serving.
If you are freezing the challah, wrap in waxed paper and foil. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.