Let me begin by saying, I did not make this challah but it’s pretty stunning, right?
As I sit here and write this, I’m having a problem concentrating due to the heavenly aroma that is wafting towards me from this masterpiece of bread.
So, here’s the scoop on where this perfect creation came from.
We have the most amazing neighbour on our street and her name is Janet Nezon. She’s the founder and Executive Director of Rainbow Plate – a nonprofit with a mission to help children and adults relax around food and cultivate positive relationships with food and eating
You may remember her from last year when I wrote about her beautiful garden and the salad I made from all the delectable greens she allowed me to forage through at the end of the summer.
When the doorbell rang last week, there was Janet holding a GIANT challah on a platter freshly baked just for us. This was her gesture of kindness, thoughtfulness and sympathy as my husband lost his dad a couple of weeks ago.
Now, traditionally, challahs can be shaped like this one for any shabbat but for ROSH HASHANAH, it should be shaped ROUND. There is a reason. Let me explain.
“The reason that we do the round challah, versus the braids, for Rosh Hashanah, is because the year is round, it represents that idea. This looks like a crown, for crowning God as king on Rosh Hashanah.”
I love challahs in any way, shape or form and this one in particular was hands down one of the best recipes I have ever tasted. In fact, my husband Steve polished off 80% of the loaf the second it landed inside the house – and might I add – this was a very BIG challah.
Janet was kind enough to provide me with her recipe which is below and also gave her thoughts on why the ritual of making challah is so special to her. Take it away Janet!
“This bread has become my personal tradition. I make it for my family every Friday and on countless other occasions for people dear to my heart. Kneading, shaping and baking the loaf does as much to nourish me as I hope it does for those I share it with. It is golden, soft, dense and sweet; warm, crispy and fragrant. It represents celebration, joy and happiness; memories and tears; holidays, traditions and family. It is a handwoven symbol of love.”
Janet, thank you so much again for sharing and for being the most wonderful neighbour anyone could ask for!
Wishing my family and friends a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem (may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
- ½ cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 5 cups unbleached white flour (*approximately)
- In a large bowl, mix together the water, sugar and yeast.
- Beat in the oil and eggs.
- Add salt and 4 cups of the flour. Stir together and keep adding enough flour to make a dough that’s smooth and not sticky. Add more flour or water as needed to adjust dough texture. (The amount needed will vary slightly with the humidity of the air.)Turn out onto a floured board or slab and knead until dough is smooth and elastic – approx 10 minutes.
- Form dough into a ball. Place in a large oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk – approx. 1 hour
- Punch down dough. Turn out onto a board and divide into sections according to how you want to shape it (eg. 3-braid, 4-braid etc.)
- Shape challah. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover loosely with a towel or plastic wrap sprayed with oil. Let rise for about 1 - 2 hours or until doubled in size. You know it’s ready when you poke your finger into it and the dent doesn’t disappear!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat one egg until well mixed and brush entire surface of challah. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake for approx 30 minutes, until well browned. Bottom should sound hollow when you tap it.
- I like to turn the oven off, open the door and let it sit for an extra 5 minutes before taking it out - this often helps prevent the bread from falling. (If you do this, check to make sure it’s not getting too brown.) Cool on a rack for one hour before slicing.
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