Judith, her teachers at Apples & Honey Nursery, and lately some of the parents of the nursery children take it in turns every Thursday to make a batch – or double batch – of this dough at home. They leave it to rise over night and then, on a Friday morning, the swelling dough is carefully transported to the nursery in a very large plastic bucket . The children all take a small piece. They knead it, divide it, plait it, paint it with egg wash and sprinkle it with poppy seeds. Later, with the air filled with the smell of freshly baked hallah, they sing some Shabbat songs and recite the blessing over some larger hallot also made from the same batch of dough. Finally, their week of nursery at an end, they take their little hallah home to eat – and many of these three and four year olds can restrain themselves that long because they want to show off their achievement to their family.
Have you got a hallah recipe you’d like to share with us?
A 1.5 kilo bag of strong white bread flour
Two 7 gram sachets of fast action dried yeast (14 grams in total)
¾-1 cup sugar
3 heaped teaspoons of salt
3 eggs (medium free range)
¾ cup oil
2 cups luke-warm water (generous)
extra flour for handling the dough
Large food Mixer with a dough hook e.g. Kenwood Chef
Bowl for checking each egg separately
1 cup measure
¾ cup measure
1 tsp measure
2 cup measure pyrex jug
1 knife for cutting the mixture
Bowl for poppy seeds
Pastry brush for glaze
Oven preheated Gas mark 6, 350 F, 180 C.
Place all ingredients into bowl of mixer, dry ingredients first and then wet ones. Switch mixer on gently to prevent flour flying or water spraying. As the mixture becomes better blended, increase the speed gradually until the machine is dancing on the work top.
Stop machine at least once during the process to stir in any of the mixture that is not mixing well.
When the dough appears to be well blended and elastic it is ready. (It is better to have a sticky dough as the cooked hallah will be lighter.)
Remove dough hook from mixture and cover bowl with cling film to prevent the top from crusting over. Leave it overnight to rise. If you have the chance, pummel the dough mixture once it has risen and leave it to rise again as it improves the flavour.
Sprinkle flour onto prepared surface and tip the risen dough onto it. Knead the dough firmly but gently until it feels smooth and velvety, about 5 minutes using the palm of your hand and your fingers. Do not pull at it. If the dough starts to stick to your fingers sprinkle them with flour but don’t let the dough become dry and crumbly.
Now is the time to add any extra ingredients, if you so wish. (see below)
After braiding, glaze the surface of the hallot with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake for approximately 40 minutes till base sounds hollow when tapped.
A sweet-filled hallah for Purim:
Use the above recipe and, during the final kneading, add to the mixture a variety of chocolate drops, raisins or any other sweet flavoured ingredients that you desire. Then continue with plaiting the strands of dough as you would a normal Shabbat hallah or shape it into a triangle to represent a hamentasch. Sprinkle with coloured sugar strands.