Chef Gilligan's challah bread

This Saturday sees the start of Rosh Hashanah. This holiday occurs on the first and second days of Tishri.

In Hebrew, the name Rosh Hashanah means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the year."

Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight drinking bash and daytime football game.

There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one: Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions."

Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the New Year.

The name "Rosh Hashanah" is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.

No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah.

Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. There is also dipped bread in honey (instead of the usual practice of sprinkling salt on it) at this time of year for the same reason.

In addition to dipping an apple honey, the Jewish eat round challah bread to symbolize the circle of the life and the cycle of a new year. The challah is also in the shape of a crown because it refers to God as royalty several times throughout the holidays.

 

CHALLAH BREAD

Ingredients:

Dough

1 cup lukewarm water

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons honey

4 ½ cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon instant yeast

Sesame seeds (optional)

Egg Wash:

2 egg whites

 

Method:

In a bowl combine the water, eggs, honey and oil together.

Whisk till all the liquid ingredients are well mixed.

Pour mixture into a large bowl.

Add in about two cups of the bread flour and the yeast and salt.

Beat together till smooth and very well mixed.

Allow to rest for 15 minutes uncovered.

After 15 minutes have passed continue to add the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time. Once the dough becomes firm enough to work with your hands, Pour out onto a flat surface and knead for 10 minute till the dough becomes soft and elastic.

You may need more flour, that’s OK just add it 1 heaping tablespoon at a time till the dough is workable without sticking to your hands. But, not to dry either.

Like I always say if you’re not to sure it's better to be on the sticky side rather then the dry side!

After the dough has been kneaded place into a greased bowl and turn dough over to lightly coat all sides.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise till double in bulk. This will take an hour to an hour and a half.

After dough has risen place onto a flat surface and cut into three equal parts.

I like to use a scale to weigh the dough so the braid will look even after cooking.

For my dough each piece weighed about 13 oz. your may be slightly different depending on the amount of flour needed.

Roll out each piece of dough into a 15 inch rope.

Now, connect the three pieces of dough at one end. Start to braid the dough starting from the right side.

Once the dough has been braided pinch the ends and tuck them under the braid to make a clean and stunning braid.

Place the braid onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Take the egg whites that you have left over from the two egg yolks.

Using a wire whisk beat the egg white till they become foamy.

Using just the foam brush the Challah bread till all the dough has some of the egg wash. Set the remaining egg wash aside because you will need to do this again before baking. Cover the braid with plastic wrap and allow to rise till double in bulk about an hour to a hour and a half.

After the dough has risen remove the plastic wrap and whisk the remaining egg wash again and brush the foam on the braid again.

Sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds and place into a pre heated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes then rotate the bread and turn the heat down to 375F bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the loaf is deliciously browned.

Cool on a wire rack.