Challah made easy (with sermon writing notes included)
Put in the bowl of your food mixer the following, in the order as given:
1 egg plus one cup of warm water
1.5 teaspoons of margarine OR 3 of olive oil
3 cups of strong white bread flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2.5 teaspoons of dried yeast (or one sachet)
Now beat them together until you have a fairly firm ball.
Next, take the mass of notes and ideas you have been making all week, and begin to assemble a sermon at your computer. By the time you have done a first draft (about an hour) the dough will have risen and it is time to beat it again.
After beating it, you have fifteen minutes to read and comment in pencil on how and where you will need to amend the draft of your sermon. By now the dough will have recovered from its severe beating, and will be beginning to rise.
Take it out of the bowl with floured hands and divide into two equal pieces.
On a clean surface take the first piece and divide it into six. Roll each sixth into a ‘sausage’ and place each of the strands alongside the other lengthwise, with their tops together.
Now, forget what you were going to change in your sermon and concentrate. You need to number each strand – one, two, three, four, five, six in that order, left to right.
Then, pick up strand number one (on the far left as you are looking) and pick up strand number four. Strand number one is now pulled across and over ALL the other strands EXCEPT strand number four (which it goes under), until it rests at the far right, and is now strand number six.
Re number all the strands, from the left, one to six. Repeat the exercise, always lifting strand number four out of the way.
Eventually you will run out of length, your challah will have magically turned from “portrait” to “landscape” and it will be plaited with six strands.
Now you can put it on a baking tray, make the second challah with the other piece of dough in your bowl, and then you have about an hour to let it rest, rise and grow while you get on with your sermon. Just as you are completely immersed in your argument, tear yourself away in order to put your challah into a preheated oven 375 degrees f/ 190C. But, before you do this, paint your challah all over with some beaten egg as a glaze, or some runny honey.
Put in the oven and leave until the smell once more distracts you from your third sermon draft – about 25 minutes or so. If they look done, then they probably are done, and you can take them out to cool before setting them on your shabbes table.
Get back to the fourth draft of your sermon, with the satisfying smell permeating the house….
Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild
Rabbi Sylvia’s six plait challot