Friday, March 27, 2009

The Ultimate Challah

People ask me lots of questions about my writing and my books. One of the common ones is “Wally is often cooking for her family and friends. Why don’t you include some of her favorite recipes?”

Good question.

I guess the reason I don’t is that there is enough going on in my books without adding pages of recipes. There is a word limit count that corresponds to a page limit, and while my books are allowed to be longer now, they are still restricted. So I can’t afford to use any pages that don’t keep the story moving forward.

Yet I am not without sense, and if people want to know how Wally Morris, my amateur detective, would make some of the food in her books, I am willing to tell them. Luckily Wally is a much better cook than I am, so if I write about a recipe that people believe Wally can make but I can’t, then they can just assume my husband or daughter really made it.

I thought I’d start with a recipe that I am good at, and a bit vain about. Serve it with a nice Shabbat dinner. Afterwards, it’s good toasted, with cream cheese. Or turn it into French toast. Yum.

Best Challah

1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-120 degrees)
4 ½ Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. pareve margarine
4 eggs room temperature
3 cups bread flour
2-3 cups all purpose flour

Spray oil to coat bowl

Less than 1 tsp. cold water

In a large bowl dissolved the yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar, then a few minutes later the salt and margarine and mix with a spoon. Add 3 eggs and one egg white. RESERVE THE YOLK FOR LATER USE-COVER AND REFRIGERATE IT. Add the bread flour and stir vigorously until smooth.

If you have a bread hook, use it now. Add the regular flour until you have a smooth soft dough. Put on floured board and knead until elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic, until doubled in bulk. (It will double in one to two hours in a warm place, or overnight in a cool place)

Punch down dough and let it rest for a few minutes. Divide into two sections (for large loaf) two-thirds and one third. Divide larger section into three and roll each piece into a long rope. Braid the three ropes together and place on oiled bread (cookie) sheet. Divide smaller section and repeat, making a somewhat smaller braid which should be placed on top of the larger one. During the High Holidays, take the whole dough, roll into a coil and make a round challah.

Cover with a dish towel and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add cold water to reserved egg yolk and stir. Paint mixture onto dough carefully with pastry brush.

Bake the challah in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, (less for smaller loaves), or until done. Place on rack to cool.