Yid.Dish: Homemade Challah for the Working Woman

By Julie Steinberg

Published July 09, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

I recently headed back to the office after being at home for nearly 18 months. During that year and a half, I renewed my relationships with my children, husband, self, and…my kitchen. I have always been one to cook and entertain, but being at home upped the ante. I turned play dates into dinner dates. Every Friday was a complete Shabbat dinner. There was usually a homemade something or other for dessert. And we had so many leftovers, we had to literally give them away to the neighbors. During this time, I shopped at my leisure, stopping into boutique markets and buying direct from the farms. I founded a CSA. In short, I found a great deal of happiness and comfort in cooking, especially for those I love. It became more than a hobby; it became a passion.

It did not take long after returning to the workplace for things to slip to the wayside. Even with flexible hours, it is impossible to do all that I did before, much less to have the luxury of time to enjoy it. Pizza night is now one a week. Dessert is often fruit and ice cream. And the neighbors have to fend for themselves. But one thing I refuse to give up on is Shabbat, especially homemade challah.

For me, challah making challah represents everything I want to be. I love the feel of the dough in my hands when I braid it, almost as much as the sense of accomplishment I feel when it comes out of the oven. When I make challah, I feel nurturing and generous and full of possibility. And I was not going to give it up. So I pulled out my slow rise method from my bag of tricks, and wanted to share it with anyone interested in homemade challah for the working woman.

Slow rise is a method that allows you to literally let the bread rise for as long as you need. Well, not forever – you can’t leave it in an Egyptian tomb an expect to come back a century later. But, much as the Pillsbury folks do, you can leave yeast to rise in cool spaces for extended periods. This time old method works well with challah.

For years, I have used Claudia Roden’s challah recipe with great success; it is a wonderful, simple, and parve recipe that always delivers great bread for Shabbat. Like all challah recipes, it has four key phases:

1) Combine/knead ingredients: Combine ingredients and knead, preferably on a Kitchen Aid with dough hook (speed 2 or less)

2) 1st rise: Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size.

3) Braid and 2nd rise: Braid the challah like you would a pigtail, using three plaits. Let rise again until doubled.

4) Brush and bake: Brush with an egg wash and bake away.

Here’s how it works with a slow rise:

1) Thursday night – Combine/knead ingredients: Combine ingredients and knead, preferably on a Kitchen Aid with dough hook (speed 2 or less) – 15 minutes total (2 -3 minutes for the Kitchen Aid)

2) Thursday night – 1st rise: Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size. Let it rise in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

3) Friday morning – Braid and 2nd rise: Braid the challah like you would a pigtail, using three plaits. Let rise in the fridge again until doubled. – 5 minutes to braid, 1 hour plus to rise

4) Friday afternoon – Brush and bake: Take out of fridge and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before baking. Brush with an egg wash and bake away. – 30 minutes

In some ways, the slow rise is the ultimate metaphor for the multi-tasking mom. The work gets done quietly, in the dead of night, while the dish washer is running and the laundry is cycling, and of course the kids are sleeping. I like the idea that while all that is happening things are rising in my fridge, full of the next day’s promise. It’s a hopeful effort. And homemade challah dresses up any meal, from brisket, to roast chicken, to takeout. It is a nice gesture that makes my family happy, and for me, makes working seem feasible. Give it a try, and enjoy every bite.

Note: Claudia Roden’s recipe is for 4 loaves; I find that 1 tbsp of yeast yields 2 loaves of bread. If you are new to using yeast, please take a look at this piece on how to work with it.






Find us on Facebook!
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.