Sunday, August 29, 2010

Challah Back, Camelback Girl

Family camp in the Sierras.   A glorious day on the lake.   Toddlers are crawdad fishing on the dock.  The annual Yahoo vs. Midoree Capture the Flag grudge match, complete with war paint, is in full swing.   Hikers are heading out in groups, poles and packs at the ready.   Paddleboats and kayaks are bobbing about.  The tennis crew is warming up on the courts.   A few folks are reading the paper on the deck under the enormous fir trees.

Invigorated by the mountain air and hearty breakfast, we check out the list of available activities:

Arts and crafts
Sailing lessons
Staff vs. Guest volleyball
Kids talent show
Nature walk
Challah making

Challah making?

Challah making.   The best thing to hit camp since wi-fi, yoga and the wine steward.

Sierra Camp Challah

Alisa, the wonderful counselor who put the event together, made all the dough by hand two days before we started braiding.   The recipe she gave us comes from The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen, by Joan Nathan.

Makes 3-4 loaves

2 scant Tbs. or 2 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 tsp. sugar
4 eggs
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
9 c. flour
2 c. raisins, optional
sesame or poppy seeds

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 c. of warm water, and the sugar.  Set aside for 10 minutes until bubbling.   In a separate bowl, beat 3 of the eggs with the honey.  Add the remaining 1/2 c. warm water, oil, and salt.  Add the yeast mixture, beating well with a spoon.   Using 5 c. of the flour, add 1 c. at a time to your mixture, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.  The dough will be sticky.   If you are using raisins, add them now.    Add two more cups of flour, beating well with a wooden spoon until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl.

Shake an additional 2 c. of flour onto a smooth work surface.   Turn out the dough and knead until almost all of the flour has been absorbed into it.   Return it to the bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise for about two hours, until doubled in size.    Punch down.  [NOTE:  I think you can refrigerate the dough at this point if you like]

Divide the dough into three or four equal parts, and divide each part into three again for braiding.  Roll the dough into long ropes.  Braid three parts together, as you would hair.   Press down the ends.    You can leave the loaf long, or push the ends into a circle.  Place the loaves on parchment paper covered baking sheets, cover with a towel, and let rise about 30 minutes more, until almost doubled in size again.

Preheat the oven to 350.   Brush the loaves with the remaining egg mixed with a little water.   If you like, press sesame and/or poppy seeds onto the bread.   Bake for 25 minutes, until golden.

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