One of my favorite customs at this time of year is baking the round, sweet challahs we use at this season. The first recipe here is excerpted from my book A Taste of Challah and I've made it many times with excellent results. Now, I would like to share it with you:
Pure Whole Wheat Challah
This larger amount makes enough dough to get the mitzvah of hafrashas challah, ie, separating challah with a blessing. It makes 6 larger challahs, 8-9 medium sized ones.
21-22 cups flour / 3 kilo very finely ground whole wheat flour
5-6 cups warm water
1 T. salt
1 & 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 & 1/2 cups canola oil
100 grams fresh yeast cube or 3 & ½ Tbls. dry yeast
eggs and seeds for glazing
For those of you who want a very small recipe, here are smaller amounts:
7 cups finely ground whole wheat flour
2-2 & 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup + 2 T. light brown sugar (if you like challahs less sweet, leave out the 2 T.)
1 Tbls. Dry yeast
2 additional eggs for glazing later on
Place the fresh yeast in the bottom of a large mixing bowl; crumble slightly with your hands. If you are using the dry, just put it in the bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of the sugar on top of it. Add part of the warm water to cover it, then cover the bowl and let the yeast proof for 5 -8 minutes. (If you used dry yeast, you do not need to wait for it to proof; just continue.) Add half of the flour, the oil, sugar and eggs. Start to mix while adding in some more of the water. Add in the salt and continue to knead. It should resemble a thick batter at this point.
Turn off the mixer and cover the bowl again. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes. Turn the mixer back on and slowly add the remaining flour while mixing and adding in water at the same time until a smooth, slightly sticky dough is formed. This can be done by hand as well as by mixer. Keep mixing until the dough is uniformly mixed. Add small amounts of water and oil as needed in order to complete the texture of the dough. When done, transfer the dough to a very large, oiled bowl to rise. Turn the dough over once or twice so it becomes coated a bit with oil. Then cover the dough with plastic and a towel, and leave it to rise for 45 minutes.
Remove challah with a bracha, (if you made the larger amount).
If the shaping will be done only much later on in the day or the next morning, grease your hands with oil, punch down the dough all over and place it in a large garbage bag. Remove all air and seal it on top with a strong knot. Place it in the fridge until ready for shaping. When you want to shape it, take it out of the fridge for at least an hour prior so that it warms up to room temperature first.
Shape and bake as directed in chapters 2 – 4 . The custom is to shape the challahs in a rounded shape at this time of year, to symbolize that the Jewish Year never ends; it comes full circle and then we start again. And it also reminds us that we pray to Hashem for our lives to continue…just like a circle continues. Many make their challahs sweeter as well, to symbolize our hope and prayer that we be inscribed for a sweet New Year. I like to do that by sprinkling a cinnamon/sugar mix on top of the challahs when they are finished rising and just after I glaze them with egg. Instead of sprinkling them with seeds, I sprinkle them with the cinnamon/sugar mix.
Here are a few more recipes that incorporate some of the symbolic Rosh Hashana foods used at this time of year. This recipe has both carrots and apples in it…
CARROT APPLE KUGEL
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar (I like to use light brown sugar)
1 1/2 cups carrots, grated
2 apples, peeled and grated
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup matzo meal, or, if you don't have any, use more flour
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together. Bake in a 9x13 lined pan at 350°F/180C ° for 40 minutes. Slice and serve.
This next recipe incorporates spinach, called tered in Hebrew, and is another one of the symbolic foods many have the custom of serving on Rosh Hashana…
Makes about 20 'latkes' or pancakes
6-8 potatoes (about 2 & 1/2 lbs.), peeled
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chopped spinach
1/4 cup matzo meal
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 Tablespoons olive oil
Grate the potatoes and onion. Pour them out into a large bowl. Add in the garlic and spinach. You needn't cook the spinach at all. Just defrost it and then squeeze it out with your hands a bit before adding it to the potatoes.
Mix well this well and press out excess fluid. Add in the eggs, matzo meal, flour and seasonings. If the mixture is too liquidy, add in a bit more flour. Let the batter rest (or refrigerate it) for 5 minutes while oil is heating in a nonstick pan.
Drop large spoonfuls of this batter in the pan and flatten each one to about 1/2 in. thick. Cook until browned and then flip and continue to cook until the second side is browned.
Enjoy and have a meaningful, healthy and sweet New Year!
All the best,