After a less than perfect Saturday at home with the family, I decided to change the direction of my weekend. Sunday morning arrived, my husband fled to the safety of the golf course, and the kids were left at my mercy. Within an hour their bedrooms were sparkling and so were their scrubbed faces. Hair was scraped back into ponytails, clean clothes were put on and we were off.
A quick trip through the grocery store saw us emerge victorious – NO MELTDOWNS AND NO ROGUE ITEMS IN THE SHOPPING CART! I am not above bribery if it means I get thing accomplished, so the girls were rewarded with a Starbucks run (no death wish here, I got the coffee, they got cake lollipops).
The whole point of this excursion was to make our way to Sur La Table, my Mecca. Never before have I taken the girls with me to Sur La Table. To say I was nervous was an understatement. The potential for disaster was overwhelming and I’m not going to lie, I broke a sweat as we walked through the doors.
Both girls were stunned into silence (a miracle!) before launching into a virtually non-stop dialogue about the oversize whisk on display, the colorful crockery, the zebra printed knives…ah! The knives! Pulling them both with me to the much safer baking section, I handed Georgie measuring cups and spoons (plastic, phew) and Lily a baking pan and tongs. Now that their hands were occupied I was left to breathe in the aroma of Nespresso coffee and the olive oil that was out for sampling… Sounds like a questionable combo, but at 11:15 on a Sunday morning it was nothing short of refreshing.
Purchases in hand we returned home to get the baking underway. Rather, to feed the girls lunch, put them down for naps, clean up lunch and then get the baking underway. Five hours, three rises and only a little stress later, I was proudly cradling two warm loaves of Challah, brought to life from a recipe a college friend (thanks, Brooke) shared with me. Give it a try…it’s far easier than the final product would have you believe!
½ C warm water
2 T dry yeast
1 T sugar
5 large eggs
¾ C sugar
¾ C vegetable oil
1 t salt
7 ½ C all-purpose flour
2/3 C warm water
1 egg yolk
1 T water
1.Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in measuring cup or bowl and stir until yeast dissolves. Let yeast mixture stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In large bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat 5 eggs until blended. Add oil, salt and 3/4 cup sugar and beat until pale yellow and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Beat in 2/3 cup warm water. Add yeast mixture and beat until blended.
3. Remove whisk and fit mixer with dough hook. Add enough flour 1 cup at a time to form smooth dough, beating well after each addition. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding flour by tablespoonfuls if sticky. Turn out onto floured surface and knead 2 minutes.
4. Lightly oil large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, then with clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
5. Punch down dough. Cover with plastic and clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.
6. Grease 2 large baking sheets. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 9-inch-long rope. Braid 3 ropes together; pinch ends together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, forming 2 braids.
7. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place each braid on baking sheet. Cover with towel. Let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. I find that the stove top of a pre-heating oven is the perfect resting place for dough.
8. Whisk yolk with 1t warm water to blend. Brush dough with egg wash. Bake for 35 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If you are concerned with the top getting too brown, cover loosely with foil.
9. Transfer loaves to rack and cool completely.