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July 26, 2014
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Sharing A Traditional Family Recipe

We all have memories associated with holidays and Thanksgiving is no exception. Molly’s memories center around baking the perfect Challah Bread. Find out how she does it.

These are the things we talk about when we talk about Thanksgiving. We talk about turkey brines, new side dishes and relatives. We almost certainly talk about the dearly beloved “Banoffee Pie,” which my English friend Sophie introduced to us at a Thanksgiving past. We talk about desserts that we have been planning for weeks, the failures and successes. We talk about Challah. Yes, that’s right, Challah, the official (and only) bread of my Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. I like Christmas. I enjoy New Year’s. But I hold Thanksgiving close to my heart. There is no last-minute shopping drama, no mosquitoes and fireworks, no dressing up and passing out bite-sized candy. It’s the only holiday that I feel really celebrates food, family, and the traditions that make us who were are. All of which are enough for any celebration. But would Thanksgiving still be Thanksgiving without the specific traditions unique to every family? For instance, every (and I do mean every) Thanksgiving morning I must watch the Macy’s parade. I don’t even really like parades, but there is just something about getting up early in the quiet house while it’s chilly out and drinking warm coffee while watching D-list celebrities do their thing. That is Thanksgiving for me.

Challah is also Thanksgiving. It’s funny how these traditions become part of us. How many people make green bean casserole? A good percentage of these people might not even like green bean casserole. But there it is on the table year after year. I, for one, would not mind seeing it go to that big casserole dish in the sky, but that’s just me.

I’m not sure how long Challah has been a tradition for my family, but it’s been around for at least 15 years, probably more. Some family members, so obsessed with this magic bread, request and receive their own mini loaves while others rip, tear, and share large poppy seed-covered behemoths of bread. Our bread is never, ever cut into slices, just placed in baskets and passed around. Take as much or as little as you want.

Two years ago, having never had much luck in the bread baking department, I crazily volunteered to make the holiday bread. All of it. A large, daunting task at the time, but I never want to shy away from a new challenge. I practiced every week leading up to the big day, each loaf a little better than the last. And now, having paid my dough dues, I have mastered Challah.

What’s next? I’m thinking Turkey. Here we go!

CHALLAH

Adapted from Martha Stewarts Baking Handbook

makes 1 loaf

• 7 cups of AP flour
• 21 grams of fresh yeast
• 8 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs
• 2/3 cup of sugar
• 1 TBS kosher salt
• 4 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1 cup of water
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 1 egg for egg wash
• and poppy seeds for sprinkling

Mix everything together in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix well until combined, about 10 minutes. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead just until all bits have been incorporated. Gather the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot. Let it rest for about an hour or until is has doubled in volume. While you are waiting for it to rise, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly whisk one egg for your egg wash. Once your dough has doubled in volume, take it out of the bowl and place on counter and divide into three equal parts. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Roll each third into an 18-inch log. Lining up all logs, braid them making sure to seal your ends together. If this seems a bit confusing just look up “How to braid Challah” on Google and you should be good to go. Once your loaf is braided, place it on a parchment-lined sheet pan and brush the entire loaf with egg wash. If desired, sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake for 45-50 minutes, making sure the crust is a nice golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

What’s your favorite traditional family recipe? Leave in the comments section below..

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