In 1972 my husband, Natie the Cowboy, and I made aliyah. For me, the trauma and fright set in as soon as we arrived. Natie wore a smile that has never left his face. He was immediately home. It took me a bit more time ― like 4 or 5 years. I missed family and friends so very much. The only thing that I began to find solace in was cooking and baking.
I made my first challa with trepidation. Imagine my surprise and delight when it turned out to be delicious. I was asked to show my neighbor, a rabbi's wife, how to make a challa. I proudly began teaching her, however in my enthusiasm I used hot water on the yeast instead of the lukewarm water that is necessary to allow the yeast to expand. Poor Bella had to buy challa for her Shabbat dinner.
In 1981 we moved to the Old City in Jerusalem where miracle after miracle began happening in our lives. We live right in front of the Western Wall! How could we have been so lucky? With God's help, Natie and I made our home a open house for all the nearby students who became our adopted sons and daughters. We are so grateful.
A few years ago Natie started making challa dough for me. Since Natie gets the mitzvah for making the challa, I get to shape it and bake it. One Friday night we were invited out for dinner. After kiddush, our hosts brought out a beautiful home baked challa. It was so unusual ― a round challa shaped into 12 rolls, representing the 12 tribes. I was fascinated and began making them for Friday night. It was a big hit and became the custom for the "House of Charles."
THE COWBOY'S EGGLESS CHALLA
8 cups Flour
1 Tbs. Salt
½ cup Sugar or Honey
½ cup (scant) Oil
1 pkg. Yeast (Israeli ― 50 grams or USA ― 3 pkgs. dried yeast)
2 1/2 cups Warm Water
1 Egg to be used for an egg wash
Put the 8 cups of flour in the mixer. Add the salt, sugar, oil and the yeast that has been dissolved in the 2 1\2 cups of warm water. If dough is sticky add more flour (by the handful ― just enough to not be sticky to the touch).
Lightly oil a second bowl and put the dough into it, turning it so that all sides are oiled. This prevents the dough from sticking to the bowl. Put it in a warm place and let it rise to double the size. Punch down and let it rise again. When the dough has risen for the 2nd time, shape it and paint it with an egg wash ― this will allow it to brown nicely. I always sprinkle the top with sesame and/or poppy seeds. I let them rise in the pan for another 20 minutes and put them into a 400-degree pre-heated oven for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for another 20 minutes.
It is important to take the challa out of the pan immediately and put it on a wire rack so that the bottom does not get soggy. I like soft crusts ― so I cover the hot challa with a towel.
To freeze the challa, I wrap it first in tin foil and then in a plastic bag. I like freezing the challa while it is still warm. Let it defrost at room temperature and place it on the covered heating element, on top of a steaming pot or in a warm oven.
Enjoy! With love, Bubby Irma