This week, Dad decided that we should take another crack at a previously unsuccessful attempt to make Challah bread. Realizing his mistake from the last go around, hopefully, would help us avert tragedy. There’s a step in the recipe where you have to cover the bowl of dough with a towel and place in a warm place to rise. Dad has one of those fancy glass flat top stoves, complete with a warming burner, so he had placed the dough on that spot to rise. Unfortunately the spot was a little too warm and dough got a little cooked in the process. But this time we would know better and as they say,”Knowing is half the battle.” (And eating is the other and better half!)

So onward in the long journey to make Challah. The time from start to finish: 4.5 hours (with only 30 minutes of active time. Everything else is just waiting). I love how the CT Post calls this recipe an “easy” Challah. 4.5 HOURS!!! How long does the difficult Challah recipe take to make?! A week?! Or perhaps it’s simply that the harder recipe is written in the original Hebrew, thereby making the translation a little more challenging.

My friend Jena has shared with me many tales of holiday dinners with family, who apparently become insulted if you don’t eat enough. You might think that when the top button pops off your jeans that you’ve reached your limit for the evening. You’d be wrong. Way wrong. Through these stories, I have learned that the power of Jewish guilt exceeds the power of Catholic guilt mostly because the former’s flair for the dramatic. Jena accounts scenes of long dinners at two different family houses, eating a full meal at each stop, pushing away from her plate just in time to hear the cries of, “You didn’t eat anything! You didn’t like it?!” After spending over four hours with the Challah, I think I finally understand where some of that guilt comes from. If your Jewish mama is going to slave for that many hours in the kitchen, she wants to make sure that EVERYTHING gets eaten.

For Irish/German Catholics, our Challah came out pretty good. Dad and I shared a few slices with Mom when she got home from school, schmeared with just a tad of butter. For dinner, I made some Challah French Toast, something that Matt has been talking about forever. It was awesome! Definitely the best way to have french toast. Not sure I’d go through the 4.5 hour journey to make it, but next time we’re out for breakfast at the diner, I’ll keep my eye out for it.

Later that night, I sent pictures of the Challah to Jena. She seemed pretty impressed with our little experiment. “That looks great! Although, I haven’t made Challah in years. It takes forever!”

Easy Challah (Connecticut Post Newspaper)

1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water, about 110° F
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1/4 oz package)
1/4 cup of honey
3 large whole eggs, divided
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for bowl
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 tablespoon whole milk (or water)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, water and yeast. Mix until the yeast is dissolved. Let sit until foam develops on the surface of the water, about five minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, two of the whole eggs, three egg yolks and the oil. Add to the yeast mixture.

3. Add the salt and flour, then using the mixer’s dough hook attachment, mix on low until combined, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes.

4. Lightly coat a large bowl with oil, then transfer the dough into it, turning the dough once to completely coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

5. Transfer the dough to a dry work surface and punch down lightly to remove air that has gathered inside the dough. Reshape the dough into a ball, return to the oiled bowl, cover with towel and set back in the warm place until the dough doubles in size again, about another hour.

6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray lightly with cooking spray.

7. Divide the dough in two pieces. Divide each piece of dough into three equal parts. Roll each portion into 12″ strands about 1″ wide.

8. Gather three strands together at one end and pinch together, then braid the dough, by alternately crossing one strand over the other until you reach the other end. Pinch the other ends together so the braid does not unravel. Repeat process with second half of dough.

9. Carefully transfer the braided loaves to the prepared baking sheet.

10. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining egg and the milk or water. Using a pastry brush, coat the surface of each loaf with the egg mixture. Reserve the excess mixture in the refrigerator.

11. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for another hour or until the loaves have doubled in volume. Preheat oven to 350°.

12. Lightly brush loaves with the remaining egg mixture. Bake until the loaves have risen and are deep golden brown, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before slicing.