Baking khallah ... and yes, this is spiritual, too! - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 41 Old 04-27-2003, 09:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So this total domestic dunce, this totally kitchenly-challenged lady, namely me ... made khallahs for the first time on Friday.

Yes, immediately after Pesakh, changed over the kitchen in an all-nighter Thursday night, then spent Friday morning baking khallah for the first time.

Okay, so I'm not so bright. But man am I proud of myself.



And they came out pretty good, too, key & all.



Anyway, over Yom Tov I'd been reading about a woman who passed away last year, and was being remembered for her intensity with the mitzvah of making khallah and separating khallah.

So since it's the one "women's mitzvah" I've never done, in her z'khus (merit), it inspired me.

The writer told how she would work in absolute silent meditation, except for the regular whispering of "lekavod kedushat Shabbat" (in honor of the holiness of the Sabbath). So I tried, & tried, but with a baby hanging on my legs and 5yo&3yo wanting to break eggs, sift flour, throw flour ... well, you get the picture ... it wasn't exactly a spiritually uplifting experience.

I worked on a table that was still "Pesakhdig," meaning still covered with layers of foil & paper & plastic ... anyway, so DH suggested keeping it covered, making it a "khallah table," and maybe putting some kind of meditative art on the wall over it ... in other words, he was into me getting into this and wanted to help, but aside from chasing after flour-covered children, couldn't figure out how.

So, those of you who do bake your own khallah, is it a spiritual experience, or just satisfying like in the way that making a nice meal for Shabbos is? And if it's a spiritual experience, how do you get it that way?

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#2 of 41 Old 04-27-2003, 10:21 AM
 
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I don't know if I would say it was spiritual. I guess I would have to say memory rejuvinator. There is such a particular smell to Challah that memories of my mom, my grandmother and even my grandfather making it just flood back. When I do make it, very rarely these days, it is more meditative. It is a way of connecting to my childhood and remembering my excitement of getting some fresh and hot from the oven and watching the butter melt. It reminds me of very happy times.
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#3 of 41 Old 04-27-2003, 02:25 PM
 
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I used to bake it all the time, especially in college and in the 5 years afterward. I never did it in complete silent meditation, but it was always a spiritual experience. I loved the fact that I could feel the dough growing under my hands, see the dough rise, smell the bread bake, and then taste it. I think I always wind up doing very abstract things for work. So especially when I was in graduate school, baking challah was the most amazing return to reality. That sounds like a physical, not a spiritual experience, doesn't it? But it felt holy.

I also used to burn the sacrifice (you know, the dough you take out when you take challah?) and that was part of what made it special for me.

(no one in my family in the last three generations baked their own bread! )

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#4 of 41 Old 04-27-2003, 04:19 PM
 
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b'h

i love baking challah. i bake them every week, and dd (2 1/2 years old) "helps." she loves baking them too. walk into the kitchen as challahs are baking...and sniff...........ahhh!!
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#5 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 04:03 AM
 
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OK, we cheat a bit and use a bread machine to make the dough. Actually, my husband makes the challah (we are an egalitarian family) and starting doing it as a father/daughter bonding/educational experience. He says that hairy hands make kneading unpleasant! (Maybe that's why it's best left to women???) But he loves doing fancy braids with our 9 y.o. dd and they make the bracha together (l'shem chinuch - for the sake of education only -- since he doesn't make enough challah to technically qualify for hafrasha.)

Does anyone have a good whole wheat challah recipe?
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#6 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 07:03 AM
 
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GOod fOr You Amy!! Woohoo.

I love making challah and try to do it every week with the kids. I love it being a special women's mitzva and think about the time when we will not be burning the challah (seperated) but will actually be giving it to the cohanim. Dh asked me if I "feel like a better jew" on the weeks that I bake challah. I have to say that I do. It is truly a mitzva that I enjoy. I find it so relaxing and spiritual. Connecting with the raw ingredients to the actual bread that goes on the table for shabbos. Being that connection. Makes me feel closer to the source of it, the Olam that Hashem created. The bread that is a very central aspect of one of the most important mitzvos of shabbos.
I like to make 6 braid challah's havig once learned that two 6 braids is like the 12 breads of lechem hapanim in the beis hamikdash. Making me feel even closer to the concept of my home as a mikdash miat.

-BelovedBird

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#7 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 07:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Actually, my husband makes the challah (we are an egalitarian family)
What does this mean, exactly? That you don't believe that there a mitzvos specifically for women? So seperating challah is not a special mitzva for you?
I know non-egalitarian families where the husband makes the dough. The mitzva, as far as I know is seperating the challah, not making the dough or shaping the bread.

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#8 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 07:31 AM
 
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I jyst meant that we're not into "his and hers" mitzvot. We attend a Masorti shul. Not that men and women are exactly the same, but that they deserve equal access to Judaism, IMO.
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#9 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 10:24 AM
 
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Isn't the mitzvah of separating challah incumbent on whomever bakes the bread? I know that it's listed in the mishnah as one of the mitzvot specific to women, but are men exempt? I thought it was listed as a "women's mitzvah" based on the cultural assumption that women bake bread for their families. This is not a safe assumption. It probably wasn't one when the Talmud was codified, either, as I think there were professional bakers then, too.

(It's actually listed as one of the mitzvot that if a woman violates it, she might be punished with death in childbirth. I have not read what the Gemara or rabbinic commentators say about this.)

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#10 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 01:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Made 'em 4-braids, just because they looked nice & it was easy to do. Thought about the two fours, shmona yimay mila, but now ...

Quote:
... by BelovedBird

... two 6 braids is like the 12 breads of lechem hapanim in the beis hamikdash ...
Yaowza.



Gotta go find a picture of how to do 6-braids now, don't I.

Thank you ...
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#11 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 02:31 PM
 
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C.O.- Men are definately not exempt from taking challah it is just one of the three mitzvos seen as special for women. I'm not sure why though. I KNOW I heard a vort on that at one time. Men also are obligated to light shabbos candles if there is no woman around because there must be ohr for shabbos.


Amy, 6 braids are easy (I think) like this: lay out the six strands, then do this

-first right over two
-second from left all the way over (over all)
-first left over two
-second friom right all the way over (over all)

Like chanting, keep doing it over until you finish.
HTH.

-BelovedBird

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#12 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 10:29 PM
 
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This is a long one. Sorry, I can't resist when it comes to one of my most favorite topics!

I actually didn't make challah post-pesach, but I did make my own chummus because there was non to be found in the stores on Friday. Now I'm a chummus maker too! (much better and cheaper than prepackaged!)

My desire to bake challah stems from childhood. My mom tried with me once, & it turned out terribly (flat flat flat and too eggy), so that was that! (she is a great baker, just not a bread baker, and there's quite a difference).

As I started to bake on my own, I have developed my love for baking challah (khallah for amy!) and love that I am specifically doing a mitzva.

I have not thought about doing it in complete silence, but I do enjoy the process, and usually bake alone (though I encourage DH to make his own if he's around...hence some fun shapes). I would like to incorporate some more spiritual thought while making it. I try to focus and concentrate when I'm actually hafrishing and making the bracha, though sometimes I admit I'm pressed for time so the bracha is rushed.

I first started to make it as a group with my class of 4 & 5 year olds in a Reform early childhood center in NYC. Knowing that I was passing on knowledge of the mitzva to them was so rewarding. Of course the families loved having the challah every Friday. However, I look forward to days when I can share as a group again with my own children. Currently it's a pretty neat process, but alas that will change once the kiddies come along, i'y'h!

Another spiritually-fulfilling element of this mitzva- teaching a friend. A girlfriend who is returning to her yiddishkeit asked me to teach her, and she now bakes it every now and then. As a gift, I brought her a $1 large plastic bowl in which to mix the dough & a pastry brush.

I love that my recipe was passed from a friend who got it from her friend who got it from her mother, and that it's baked by different women for their shabbas tables in Israel, Boston, New Jersey, Connecticut, and who else knows where else. Who knows where the recipe even began. But, I have changed the recipe a bit.

Some things I have learned along the way (been baking regularly for only about 3 years now):

1. When using non white flour (whole wheat, rye, oats, etc), I still like to retain fluffiness, so I found best proportion is 3 parts white to 1 part whole wheat, etc. I know this isn't the healthiest, but the 50/50 mixture causes mine to be too heavy.

2. Can't really make it every week because we don't have enough many guests currently for shabbas to eat all 7-10 loaves a full recipe makes, & we don't have enough freezer space to make a full batch allowing me to separate w/the bracha (about 5 lbs) and store every week. Hopefully that will change soon as we're moving to a great community that is very friendly.

3. Knead the dough till it's "soft as a baby's tushie" is one tip I got from a former roommates mother's recipe. That suggestion is one that has stayed with me.

4. Always more fulfilling when I have a large meal, knowing that I created this, did the mitzva, and everyone gets to benefit.

5. Keeping it economical, I buy yeast in bulk from CostCo. Did you know it's approx $2.50 for quite a large bag (32 oz), whereas purchasing it in those 3-pack envelopes is approx $2.00 and a total of 1-3 oz? I store the open bag of yeast in the fridge, and it lasts a long time. Even if you make challah once a month, it will save you $$.

6. The hand-kneading is truly rewarding, and challah is one of the easier breads out there to make, only truly needing one rise (though the 2nd rise is also ok). Molly Katzen has written some good info on bread in reference to this. Therefore, I feel that the bread maker, while it's very convenient, might not be so necessary. Actually, one doesn't even need to knead challah dough too much. Just a mix and a rise, and you're good to go.

7. Weather truly affects the quality of the bread. Damp, rainy weather has led to less fluffy challahs.

8. The Spice & Spirit cookbook offers terrific diagrams of a 3 , 4, and 6 braid, as well as detailed explanations of measurements and the mitzvah.

9. I substitute honey for white sugar. Therefore, I reduced the amount of water in the original recipe to make up for the extra wetness. Aside from health benefit over refined sugar, I find that the honey challah tastes so yummy.


Phew, I think that's about all for now. I would be happy to share more tips on this in the future, as well as thoughts of the spiritual nature of baking challah.

~~~Set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul...you've got to run like a lamb queen out of control~~~
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#13 of 41 Old 04-28-2003, 11:40 PM
 
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B"H"

I used to make challah every Wednesday afternoon....

I timed the first rising to be ready to "punch" down when my dear sons came home from Hebrew school. ...

Then my dear daughter would help me braid it and let it rise...

The house smelled delicious when my dear husband came home from work on Wednesday evenings...

I would clean all Thursday and shop and cook all Friday for Shabbos...

I sincerely miss being a stay at home ima!


I now bake Challah when it is cool on a day I am home from work. I miss the rhythm of the week as a sahm!
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#14 of 41 Old 05-01-2003, 01:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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:LOL applejuice, I wish I had a rhythm of the day as a SAHM. Am totally rhythmless ... but maybe as a WAHM I have an excuse ... or should I say less of an excuse?

Back on topic ... so am now stressed, DH went right out to the kollel store (Bklyn's holiest supermarket :LOL) and got more flour, more yeast, more pans ... even toyveled the pans in anticipation of regular re-usage, with parchment paper to line them ... and expects I'll be making khallah again ... tonight.

Have a job to do, figured on working through tonight.
Maybe I should get offline & work on the job, so I can make the khallahs.
And if I do, what if they're no good? Meaning ... have heard that if you make a brakha (blessing) on wine and the wine is vinegary/no good, then it's a brakha l'vatala (invalid/in vain). Does the same go for a yucky or yeasty tasting khallah?

Okay, so I'm reaching for things to worry about, I know. :

Stress is now in the equation. Hope it stays out of the recipe.

Oh, and have a beautiful Torah about the brakha for eating bread, a "ha'motzi lekhem" Torah for the next post, but have a diaper to change first ...

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#15 of 41 Old 05-01-2003, 01:39 PM
 
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Amyrpk, I have confidence that your challah will be edible! You will not be making a bracha livatala.

Some tips...

use only white flour (if you can) for now. Whole wheat, etc. is great but they are heavier and better to use once you've gotten the hang of it more. That's just my experience.

make sure your yeast is truly bubbly before you proceed! Dead yeast will get you no where! Make sure the H20 you use is pretty warm for the "proofing" part --not hot, not cold.

you can let the dough rise for even 2 hours. (def. make sure it's in a warm spot, like on top of the stove w/a towel over the bowl)

If the dough feels really sticky before you set to rise, don't hesitate to mix in more flour. If you have a really large bowl you can mix the whole thing in there and not worry about making a counter or board all doughy.

If you're doing it today, remember it's a little damp out today in NYC. This type of weather could affect it (I find dry weather turns out a better batch) but it should still turn out great!

When you're shaping the loaves, if the dough is still a little sticky, use more flour on your hands!

When I roll out the strands, I just do it in my hands, not against a surface. Actually you can take a whole ball of dough and sort of squeeze it till it's skinny. This again saves you some board or counter clean up.

Good luck, I am sure they will turn out good, and can't wait to hear!

~~~Set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul...you've got to run like a lamb queen out of control~~~
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#16 of 41 Old 05-01-2003, 05:17 PM
 
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((((((Amy, bubele))))))

In my mind, this in one of those things that I just do my hishtadlus, then just have the bitachon that G-d knows what is best.

Having said that I just made a big batch of mixed challah for my family and six guests and ruined most of them. While cleaning the stove for pesach we removed the knob for the oven and since we would not be using the oven for pesach put it "somewhere that I could find it" Well, you guessed it. I didn't find it. : So this being the first motzei pesach oven use, I guessed where 350 was. I got it wrong, so wrong. I BAKED MY CHALLAHS ON BROIL! at least the first batch. The good news is it wasn't the kids challahs, so at least they'll be happy. The tops are BLACK! I took them out while Dh was meeting with a student in the living room. I brought them out and the student (bless him) said "rebbetzin, they don't look so bad, just a little well done on top". Meanwhile the insidesw were raw. I put them in again, I think this time it was more in the neighborhood of 350 and I cut one open. The insides are totally delicious!!

Anyway, my point is, win some. lose some, it is still a mitzva and it is pretty hard to really, totally ruin challos.

Temparature for the yeast is about what you would bathe a newborn in.

I remember the kollel store, Amy. Makes me nostalgic for brooklyn... and my car. Ok, only a very little.

B'Hatzlacha and gut shabbos all!!

-BelovedBird

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#17 of 41 Old 05-02-2003, 12:05 AM
 
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Oy! The dreaded double post!
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#18 of 41 Old 05-02-2003, 12:07 AM
 
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Man, you Jewish ladies have all the fun! Amy, I think it's awesome your husband is so excited about you getting inspired about this. Try not to translate his support into pressure. That's one of those things women have a bad tendency to do and it drives our poor DH's crazy. As to how your personal baking ritual shapes up I guess if you want silent meditation DH will need to take the kids out... once you get into a groove perhaps you could bring the kids in on it one at a time? Or you can resign yourself to a whole different kind of ritual for now... one that involves laughing kids and kitchen mayhem. I know I don't have to point out to you that is a kind of prayer too.

Oh, on a completely practical note... a simple instant read thermometer can be had to check your water temp before adding yeast for less than $20 and an oven thermometer for less than that.
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#19 of 41 Old 05-02-2003, 08:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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kama :LOL thanks for reminding me that they're not jerks on their own, we make 'em that way. Husbands, that is. :LOL

Just kidding.



If that was sexist, mods, go ahead, I can take it. :LOL

Back on topic, have figured out how to be crazy neurotic and bake khallahs without three kids under the age of five grabbing on my legs the whole time.

Ready?

Here goes:

Do it in the middle of the night.

And BB, my six strands were totally uniquely braided. In other words, all by my lonesome at 3:45 a.m., after a laughing fit when I almost tied a knot in the dough, I kinda winged it. Made it up. Looks like the way my son ties his shoes. But hey, it's ... unique.

:LOL

GOOD SHABBOS!!!!

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#20 of 41 Old 05-02-2003, 08:59 AM
 
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Tip #1: If you don't feel comfortable exposing the baby's tushie to compare it to your dough, just feel your earlobe instead. This is why bakers have flour behind their ears. Another way to know if the gluten has developed is to stretch the dough between your fingers. I got this from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, it's an instruction for all whole-grain bread, but it works with part or all white flour too: When you stretch the dough between your fingers, you should get a translucent window with little flecks in it, it shouldn't tear right away.


Tip #2: If you aren't a great braider yet, you can fake it by separating the dough into four balls. Braid three, and then separate the fourth into three more, and braid those three. Place the first loaf in a loaf pan (preferably a greased one with seeds or cornmeal on the bottom) and put the second braid on top. Looks pretty even if you can't get your complex 6 or 12 stranded braids together. I like the way challah comes out of a loaf pan, somehow it has to go up because it can't spread out.

Tip #3: If you want a shiny loaf, brush the top with beaten egg. If you want a very dark and shiny loaf, brush the top with beaten egg yolk. You can add a little water to the egg yolk to make it more brushable. Egg yolk crust looks good with white sesame seeds on top.

tip #4: When you get the hang of it, let your children see you bake challah. Then they will have a memory of you doing it, like my friend's grandmother (z"l) had of her mother. When grandma was young in Lodz, her mom had a cook, but the one thing that her mother made was challah. She used to let it rise in the featherbed.

My friend's grandmother made a wonderful challah herself: white on the inside and dark on the outside, high and sweet "like cake". She used to proof her yeast with salt and no sugar (!!@!) but it would magically foam up anyway. While the bread rose she told us stories. She was a very lively person, deeply mischievous. She died this week. I'm so sad. Another world gone.

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#21 of 41 Old 05-03-2003, 11:34 PM
 
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bs"d

Gut Voch!

Anyone who bakes challah the day after Pesach, which also happens to be Erev Shabbos, is my hero! I couldn't even get it together enough to cook much for Shabbos (only 1 dish), so we went to our downstairs neighbors. Thank G-d for them! It was all I could do to box up the Pesachdik kelim (vessels, i.e. pots and pans, dishes, etc.).

I bake challah maybe a couple times a month. Usually I do all whole grain. They aren't very traditional. When I use multiple grains (and no white flour or gluten), the dough can become quite difficult to shape into braids, so I've just given up on that and make round loaves. If I use all whole wheat bread flour, though, I do braid them.

I also have the Spice and Spirit Cookbook. I wonder how whole wheat flour compares to the tables they have on the amounts needed to separate challah. I guess I need to get a scale, so I can make sure I am separating when I should be.

I don't have much advice on good whole wheat challah recipes. I think one just has to experiment. I don't use eggs, and often use apple juice concentrate instead of honey or sugar, so I use tons of substitutions, AND I often don't measure my ingredients, so I can't give a RECIPE.
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#22 of 41 Old 05-16-2003, 12:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So last week (or was it 2 wks ago, the 3am khallah-baking) I froze two khallahs worth of dough. Defrosted it last night, and me & DD sang Shabbos songs and kneaded it this morning ...

So a question. Should it have risen again? It was still cold from the freezing. And if it doesn't rise again, will it be ... well, flat?

Happy Pesakh Sheini, ladies ... remember, everyone deserves a second chance ...
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#23 of 41 Old 05-16-2003, 12:41 PM
 
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Oy, Amy, I have tried to use defrosted dough a bunch of times, and it never works for me. Sorry I can't offer any suggestions, but I would love to read about anybody's success stories. I always thought if Kineret could do it, so could I, but it never works.

~~~Set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul...you've got to run like a lamb queen out of control~~~
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#24 of 41 Old 05-16-2003, 01:08 PM
 
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bs"d

Anyone? We need Challah-dough-freezing tips, please.
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#25 of 41 Old 05-18-2003, 12:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ahem.

It was hard as a rock. And I do mean granite, not shale or any namby-pamby rock like that. Hard. Almost broke the khallah knife ... :LOL

Oh well. At least we had a few store-boughts in the freezer, just for the "in cases" ...

Good vokh, ladies ...

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#26 of 41 Old 05-18-2003, 09:15 AM
 
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I have frozen dough. As far as I recall I did let it rise after defrosting. I think you need to allow it to get warm, to reactivate the yeast.

Amy, I am so sorry about your challah.

Dh doesn't like wholeweat challah, even half and half. I think I will be baking all white from now on

-BelovedBird

Mom of 5 boys- 13, 10, 8, 2 : and newbie Aug. 24th, '09 . babywearing advocate . Cook, baker, homemaker, wife to a man with another woman's kidney (live altruistic, unknown donor).
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#27 of 41 Old 05-23-2003, 06:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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YEA!!!!!!!

It's 5 a.m. and have just taken out this week's batch. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous.

The whole thing went so differently tonight, including the fact of baby's teething, so I had him in the sling while doing the original mixing of the dough ... so not only was I keeping my kavanah by regular "l'kavod Shabbos kodesh," I sang the whole time. (Thank you, R' Shlomo z'l, for teaching us so many songs to sing with our children!!! )

Wow. Now all I have to do is wait to eat them. And the house smells like Shabbos ...

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#28 of 41 Old 05-23-2003, 08:04 AM
 
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OH YAY AMY!!!!!!

I am so happy for you.

Have an awesome shabbos!!

-BelovedBird

Mom of 5 boys- 13, 10, 8, 2 : and newbie Aug. 24th, '09 . babywearing advocate . Cook, baker, homemaker, wife to a man with another woman's kidney (live altruistic, unknown donor).
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#29 of 41 Old 05-23-2003, 09:55 AM
 
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b'h

hey, i guess there are a few ways of braiding 6 braids.

Quote:
Originally posted by BelovedBird
Amy, 6 braids are easy (I think) like this: lay out the six strands, then do this

-first right over two
-second from left all the way over (over all)
-first left over two
-second friom right all the way over (over all)
this doesn't sound familiar and i do sixes almost every week. other times i do four. i actually just put up the dough, it's rising now. dd is gonna help me bake.
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#30 of 41 Old 05-23-2003, 09:56 AM
 
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b'h

tip for freezing challah dough: put in double the amount of yeast. it freezes nicely and defrosts very well this way.
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