Challah and Marriage in the Making
Challah: (n.) Bread traditionally served in Jewish households at the start of the Sabbath on Friday nights. (definition from book credited at the end of this post)
Marriage: (n.) A sacred relationship bound by commitment and enriched by unconditional Love. (our definition)
Tina Nandi Stephens (TNS): My goal is by the end of the year to master the art of bread-making.
Robert Stephens (RDS): Why?
TNS: So that we don’t have to buy store-bought bread that is pumped with preservatives!
Begin with 1/4 cup honey and mix with 1/2 cup and 2 tbsps lukewarm water. Add 3/4 tbsp of active dry yeast to water and honey concoction to proof the yeast.
RDS: Proof it?
TNS: Basically, you have to wake up the yeast from its deep slumber.
RDS: So “unproofed” yeast is like hidden talent, just waiting to be awoken?
TNS: Ummmm, yes I guess so.
Hot water will kill the yeast, so be careful! After submersing the yeast in water, you have to give it time – approximately 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how deeply it was sleeping.
TNS: Yeast likes to wake up in a dark and warm place.
RDS: So Bombay at night is a good venue?
TNS: What?… (shakes her head)
The yeast now goes into its dark and warm cave (our empty oven) where it will joyfully awaken to a new life in ten minutes – short time for man, a half lifetime for yeast.
RDS: We have some time now, let us move onto other topics. You have been married for 104 days. What has been the most difficult part of marriage?
TNS: The reality of being responsible for another person, and I am “on duty” all the time. Simply put, it is a lot of work and there are many challenges!
RDS: What kind of challenges? Practical, emotional, psychological? All of the above?
TNS: All of the above!
RDS: Would you change anything if you could?
TNS: No way! It is hard but I know it is character-building. Maybe preparing me for things to come…
RDS: What is the best part of marriage?
TNS: The freedom to be completely myself. I have so much security because of our vows and covenant relationship.
RDS: Is the yeast still waking up inside?
TNS: Yes. You know, it is a good thing this is not a live show…..what if the Challah bread is a fail!?!?
RDS: (laughs to self) Speaking of vows…..of the vows we wrote (7), is there any one that stands out in these first hundred days?
TNS: Hmmmm…probably the third vow: “We vow to practice patience with one another in all things.”
RDS: Lovely….why does that stand out?
TNS: When doing life together, we need a lot of patience. Not necessarily because of negative things. For example, when one is sick, or the other is working late, (or when my husband chews his nails,) one just needs patience. And just as important, patience with myself. Realizing that I have not figured it all out, and I sometimes fail. But in the midst of such things, still being patient with myself.
RDS: Any closing comments before we return to the woken up yeast?
TNS: Marriage has exposed my own weaknesses to myself, so patience with oneself is of the utmost importance.
RDS: Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Now let us go welcome the yeast into the world.
Yeast should be cloudy with small bubbles at the top. Combine the yeast mixture, 1/2 tbsp salt, 2 lightly beaten eggs and 1/4 cup melted butter in a large bowl.
RDS: The butter we are using is Amul butter….does it have to be Amul butter?…do you know where that comes from?
TNS: No and No.
RDS: Ok. It comes from Anand, a very famous dairy place in Gujarat.
RDS: Is Challah regularly made in India?
TNS: Probably not. Maybe in restaurants, but I doubt it is ever made in homes.
Mix in 3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour (maida will do). Cover, and allow to rest for approximately 2 hours at room temperature.
RDS: We are in Mumbai. What if the room temperature very hot, say 35 degrees Celsius?
TNS: (rolls eyes) I would say that the climate of Mumbai is good for raising children bread, because it is hot and humid.
The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise; though it is easier to handle when cold.
Butter or grease a large baking dish.
If making traditional braided Challah, dust the surface of the dough with flour and shape into a ball. Divide the ball into thirds. Stretch the thirds to form each into a long, thin rope. Braid the ropes, starting from the centre and working to one end. Turn the loaf over, rotate it, and braid from the centre out to the remaining end.
Allow the bread to rest for 40 minutes. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Bake near the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes. The Challah is done when golden brown.
Allow to cool before slicing or eating!
p.s. Recipe adapted from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François. Our copy was a gift from Grandma Beach which arrived in the mail today! Yay!
p.p.s Photos courtesy of Robert D. Stephens aka “Husband”
p.p.p.s. Photos of our Challah bread coming tomorrow! (Assuming it’s not a complete FAIL!)
Update: It wasn’t a fail! And now my challenge is to not finish this loaf of Turban-Shaped Challah with Raisins before the Husband gets back from work!