Or…Hallah made with the Seven Biblical Species
By Liz Ison
On Tu B’shevat, it has become traditional to eat the seven types of fruits and grains named in the Torah as the main produce of the land of Israel. In Biblical times these foods were staples of the diet as well as being important from the perspective of religious observance because one of the Temple tithes derived from these seven foods.
The relevant verses from Deuteronomy (8) are:
For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;
A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness…
(King James translation)
What better way to celebrate these two ancient grains and five fruits than combining them in a delicious hallah, alluding to the plentiful bread in the last verse, and especially as Tu B’Shevat falls on Shabbat this year. I have taken the liberty of using bees’ honey rather than date honey in this recipe. It also includes orange juice and zest, so if you can find a Jaffa orange, you’ll be bringing the recipe into the modern era.
The recipe was inspired by a Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah recipe in the newly published Smitten Kitchen Cookbook derived from my favourite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. Combining this with Marcy Goldman’s New Year hallah dough from her Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, and throwing a few extra ingredients, I came up with this hallah of the seven species.
Dough (makes two loaves, or 16ish mini-hallot)
- 2 tablespoons dried yeast
- 1 ¾ cups warm water
- 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup of runny honey
- 3 ½ teaspoons of salt
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks
- 7 ½ cups of strong white flour
- 1 cup of golden raisins (first, soak in warm water for 5 minutes, before draining and drying the raisins)
- 1/2 cup of chopped dates
- 1 cup quartered dried figs, stems removed
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 egg, beaten
- Barley flakes (available from health food shops)
- Pomegranate seeds
Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the yeast, water and a pinch of sugar. Leave for five minutes.
Stir in the remaining sugar, honey and salt. Add oil, eggs, yolks and flour. Stir. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, then knead by hand or with the dough hook of a food mixer for about 10 minutes. Add extra flour if it is too sticky.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover the bowl with cling film, or a large bin bag. Leave to rise for about 1- 1 ½ hours, till doubled in size.
Make the fig filling: Put the chopped figs, zest, juice and water into a small saucepan. Simmer for about 10 minutes till the figs are soft. Leave in the saucepan to cool, and any remaining liquid will be absorbed. Blend to a paste in a food processor.
Prepare the loaves: Deflate the dough, and press the prepared raisins and dates into the dough, kneading and folding them in.
Leave to rest for 10 minutes before shaping. Divide the dough in half.
For a three-braid hallah, divide the dough into three, and roll with your hands into long ropes. Press the ropes flat and spoon a little fig mixture along the length of the rope. Then roll each rope up trying to “hide” the fig mixture within. Then plait the three braids together. At this point you can join the two ends into a round, if you wish. Repeat with the other half.
Put onto a baking tray that has been sprinkled with a little polenta. Brush with the beaten egg. Leave to prove again for about half an hour, loosely covered with the bin bag.
Bake: Preheat oven to 200(c). Brush the loaves again with egg wash, sprinkle with the barley flakes and put in the oven. After 10 minutes baking, turn the oven down to 180(c). Bake for a further 25 minutes (10 minutes for small rolls). They are done if they sound hollow when you tap the bottoms.
Cool on a rack. Serve sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. If you are making kiddush over the bread, why not have a bowl with extra pomegranate seeds that you can sprinkle over after the blessing, as you would normally do with salt.
This is delicious eaten with cheese – or why not serve it with some date butter – recipe below.
By Miriam Edelman
This is a ‘butter’ only in the sense that it’s spreadable—there’s no butter, or other extra fat, in it at all. I remembered American apple butter and so created a similar version out of dates.
- Put 350g pitted dried dates as flat as possible in a pot. Pour 400ml boiling water over them. Leave to sit for at least an hour, probably better for longer.
- Put on medium-low heat and simmer until very soft and water is absorbed; add more water if necessary and stir/smash with a wooden spoon occasionally. Cook for 20 minutes or until they are really soft. Cool.
- Put the mixture through a food processor to puree. Push through a sieve and discard remaining husks. The mixture may not actually go into a bowl—scrape it off the bottom of the sieve.
- Add cinnamon and nutmeg, or other spices, to taste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes about 1 cup.