Dahlia Abraham-Klein, the author of showed us how to make her gorgeous rose-shaped challah for the month of Adar at the Forward’s Eat, Drink + Think event last December.
Rose-Shaped Challah With Raisins and Rosewater
Makes 8-10 challahs
4 tablespoons active dry yeast
4½ cups warm water
¾ cup organic sugar plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar
5 pounds organic white flour
1½ tablespoons sea salt
1 cup olive oil
1 cup raisins
2 cage-free organic eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon rosewater, in egg wash
Pistachio nuts, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1) In a large bowl, combine the yeast with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and the warm water. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to start activating. Yeast activation should take about 10 minutes; it will be bubbling and foamy.
2) Set 1 cup of flour aside. Sift the remaining flour, sugar and salt into the bowl.
3) Pour the yeast mixture and oil onto the flour. Combine all the ingredients, using a spatula. When it begins to form a dough, it is time to knead. At this point, you can remove the dough from the bowl and knead on the kitchen counter if it’s easier for you, or directly in the bowl.
4) To knead the dough: grab the side of the dough furthest away from you and fold it toward yourself. Fold the dough in half and use your body weight to push the dough into itself. If you find that the dough is sticking too much to the surface and preventing you from kneading properly, dust the dough with flour. Give the dough a quarter turn (90 degrees). Grab the other side and fold it in half. Again, with a lot of weight behind it, push the newly folded half into itself. Repeat this process for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, silky, elastic and the dough does not stick to the surface.
5) After the dough is thoroughly prepared, lay it on the countertop while you grease the bowl with a fine layer of oil. Next, turn the dough in the oil several times so that the dough is greased lightly on all sides.
6) Cover the bowl with a large plastic garbage bag or kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 1 hour.
7) Make the blessing on hafrashat challah.
8) Knead the raisins into the dough and then divide the dough into 8 equal parts. If the raisins pop out, just poke them back in. Use the remaining flour for the surface area and hands to prevent sticking.
9) Roll out each ball into a strand of about 2 feet long and 1 inch thick. Flatten the strand into a flat log, 2 inches wide.
10) Cut diagonal slits reaching halfway across the log at about 1 ½ inch intervals. Then coil the log around itself and pinch the end, forming a floral shape.
11) Cover the loaves again and let them rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in volume from its original size. The slits will look more petal-like at this point.
12) If you cannot bake the challahs immediately, then this is the time to wrap the shaped dough in plastic wrap to prevent drying. You can store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. On the day of baking, remove the dough from refrigerator and let stand on kitchen counter until it comes to room temperature, about one hour.
13) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your egg wash with rose water and sprinkle with the pistachio nuts, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and turbinado sugar.
14) Bake in your preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until loaves turn golden brown and shiny. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
15) Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Wait at least one hour before serving. If you are freezing the challah, wrap in waxed paper and foil. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.