No, Latino Man and I haven't converted to Judaism between blog posts, char siew and chicharron are much too delicious for that, but we have embraced Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. We've had a bit of a rough trot so far in 2013, so we're taking this opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over.
Before moving to Colombia, my knowledge of Jewish food was limited to the dairy-free options offered in the Kosher supermarkets. As meat and dairy should never meet on a Kosher plate, Jewish food manufacturers have ingeniously invented many diary-free substitutes of delicious dairy favourites. In my years as a vegan, these supermarkets were heaven, offering dairy-free cream cheese, dairy-free ice-cream sandwiches, dairy-free sour cream etc.
However in the last year, through the tutelage of our Jewish neighbours and fellow artisans, we've been exploring a broader variety of Jewish food, festival by festival. First there was Hanukkah, the amazing feast of latkes. Then Purim, which was celebrated with an afternoon of making Hamentaschen. And, most recently, Rosh Hashanah, our adopted new year, for which I made Challah.
Whilst this braided bread looks quite spectacular, it is deceptively simple to make. I opted for the circular form, representing the continuity of creation, which is traditional for Rosh Hashanah. The lovely dark colour comes from a healthy dose of egg wash, and the yellowish dough is thanks to the addition of eggs, and then some more egg yolks.
I used a Peter Reinhart recipe for the bread, and followed a simple demonstration of Challah braiding I found on YouTube. I feel the result is a fitting start to the coming year of bread baking.
4 cups of bread flour
2 tbs honey
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 tsp dry yeast
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 egg yolks
4/5 - 1 1/8 cup warm water
2 egg whites whisked until frothy for egg wash
Poppy and sesame seeds to decorate
Combine honey, yeast and warm water in a plastic or glass bowl, and let it sit until the yeast begins to froth. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs with the egg yolks, and mix in the oil. Combine the dry ingredients together, then add the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Knead for 6 minutes in a mixer with a dough hook, or for 10 minutes by hand on a floured counter.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and leave it to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it again to degas. Place it back in the original bowl, and leave it to proof again until it is 1.5 times it's original size.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and working on a lightly floured surface, divide into four pieces. Roll the pieces out into equal lengths. Let the lengths rest for 5 minutes or so, then roll them out even longer.
Follow the instructions around 1.09 in this video for how to braid a four braid challah.
Leave the braided dough to rise again.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit, or 180 degrees Celcius. Brush the dough with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds. Bake for 45 minutes, turning the pan around at the 20 minute mark to ensure even browning. You'll know the bread is cooked if it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.