Friday, October 3, 2014

Honey Jar Challah

You never know who’s sitting right beside you. And you never know what story they have to share. Feeling grumpy, I headed for a manicure and happened to sit beside Golda, a 78 year old woman with lots of stories to tell. Golda was the only 11 year old Jewish girl remaining in Poland in 1945. 1,000,000 Jewish children were killed. She was three years old when the war broke out and from that moment on, most of her childhood consisted of a run for survival.  She had red hair and blue eyes, “I didn't look Jewish,” she said, “That’s why I survived.” 

In light of a heightened international anti-semitic stance, in light of extensive misunderstandings of Jewish essence and intensified Israeli heritage bashing, I was inspired by Golda and felt compelled to share excerpts of our hour long conversation at the nail salon.

“You can’t imagine the things I saw, you can’t even believe that such evil in the world existed… There were two trains, one heading east and one heading west. We were lucky; we grabbed the right one because the other train headed for death camps in Auschwitz…. In 1944, I remember our escape from a Russian prison, children were medicated to ensure they would remain quiet - yes, even children were imprisoned. We were placed in barrels and during the escape I heard gun shots…. we survived.”

Golda moved to Canada, got married had two children and, for 34 years, she volunteered her time in the comfort and discretion of her home. She provided rehabilitative support and advice for individuals with certain illnesses and addictions. “I loved helping people, it feels good to help others,” she shared, “no one knew what I was doing, and no one needed to know.” 

Tonight is Yom Kippour, it’s the only Shabbat of the year we cannot eat.  Yom Kippour is one of the most important days in our tradition, a day of reflection in the hopes of being better than we were last year. Throughout history, oddly, Jewish people survived because they gained strength from the very notion that someone in this world makes it their mission to kill us. Golda was outraged at the media’s role in fostering anti-semitism as a result of the recent war. Jewish survival was asked to be compromised by UN ‘headless chickens’ as too few empathized with our historically-based hypersensitivity and need for self-defense or preservation.

I made this challah with my friend Sandie for my children’s school Rosh Hashanah bake sale and grabbed the recipe from  Joy of Kosher's cookbook. I dedicate this post to Golda who inspired me, and I dedicate this beautiful challah idea to all Jewish baking mothers, it’s a clever way to avoid the challah-honey dipping messes. Not only is it practical, but it also symbolizes unity and sweetness, perfect for the holidays to come.Wishing you all an easy fast.

, to life!

INGREDIENTS Prep: 1 hour min | Yield 4 challahs, simply double the recipe to make 8.

You'll need 4 glass jars with a removable lid. The dollar store has a great selection and that's where I got mine.

  • 2 ounces active dry yeast + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 cups warm water, divided
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 (6-pound) bag high-gluten flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil, divided
  • 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup poppy seeds


1. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar in 2 cups of warm water, cover loosely with a towel and set aside.

2. Place salt in a huge plastic bowl. Add flour to bowl. Add sugar and egg yolks.

3. Yeast should now have bubbled/foamed and doubled in size, if yeast has not bubbled or does not seem active repeat the process again.

4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and slowly pour yeast and sugar water mixture into the well. Then add the remaining 4 cups of warm water into the well.

5. Make sure the water is not too hot. It should be no warmer than you would use for a baby’s bath. Start kneading ingredients together and add a 1/2 cup of oil.

6. For the next 10-15 minutes, knead, adding another 1/2 cup of oil slowly during that time as needed to create a workable dough. Dough shouldn't be too sticky and also should not be dry. It should become one cohesive mass.

7. Loosely cover dough with a large kitchen towel and place in a warm spot in your kitchen for 15 minutes.

8. After 15 minutes, lightly oil your hand and knead again for another 5 minutes adding a touch more oil to the dough if necessary. The dough should now be easier to work with and will become smooth and satiny.

9. Rub a little oil over the top and around the dough. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Place covered bowl in a medium plastic garbage bag and place open ends of the bag loosely underneath the bowl, trapping in air.

10. Place in a warm spot and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch dough down and knead (lightly oil your hands if necessary), flipping it and releasing any air bubbles. Cover again, using the towel and the bag, and let rise 1 more hour.

11. Lightly oil your hands, and punch down again. With a sharp knife divide dough into 4 equal parts. Liberally spray 4 (9-inch) round baking pans or CorningWare with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

12. With lightly oiled hands, place 1 piece of dough on a smooth work surface. Play with the dough a bit, squeezing out any air bubbles. Separate into 5 equal parts. Roll each part into a round ball.

13. Place the jar base only in the middle of your round baking pan or CorningWare surround the jar with the balls of challah dough. Don’t worry if they don’t touch. They will rise into each other while baking. Set aside.
Repeat either method with remaining dough so that you have 4 challahs. Brush challahs with beaten egg and sprinkle with a combination of slivered almonds or poppy or sesame seeds. 

14. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes and then lower your oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until challah tops are dark golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.