Let’s play an association game – I’ll say a word, you say the first thing that pops into your head.
Ready? ‘Shabbos food’ If you said ‘Challah’ then you had the same thought I did. Our grandmothers may have risen at 4:00 a.m. to prepare their challah dough – we may stay awake until 1:00 a.m. to do the same, or you may just have your favourite bakery which prepares the loaves exactly the way your family likes them. In every instance, Shabbos is intricately linked to the plaited bread that adorns our tables. If you’ve ever attended a communal challah bake – and Jo’burg hosts many, you may have learned that challah is imbued with profound symbolism. From the individual ingredients, to the way they are combined; from the almost mystic process of leavening to the shaping and presentation of the loaves, there is no aspect of challah-making that is not meaningful. Women are uniquely tasked with the mitzvah of challah. The female spiritual journey involves the ability to elevate this world to reconnect with the source from which it came. As lifegivers, women can sanctify the physical world by recognising the significance of kneading together the components of flour (physical) and water (spiritual). This notion of combining is an important Shabbos theme. The six days of the week are the paradigm of diversity. They are like the six directions in our world—north, south, east, west, up and down. During these six days we are in a search outward, full of action and initiative. We are perpetually in motion, striving and pouring our energy away from ourselves. Shabbos, on the other hand, represents an inward focus. It is the day when we absorb the blessings from the frenetic six workdays and direct the energy within to our homes, to our loved ones, to our own souls, re-energising our lives. Even the braiding of the challah (customarily done in some traditions with six strands), represents this idea of unity. The separate threads of dough are all entwined and secured together. This year, the Shabbos project united six continents, with communities all over the globe weaving together all the diversity in our lives and our world for a peaceful harmony and unity that only the Shabbos can achieve.
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup oil
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1⁄2 cup honey
- 3 packets dry instant yeast
- 4 1⁄2 cups lukewarm water
- 15-16 cups of flour (ordinary cake flour)
- Place eggs, oil, sugar, salt, sugar and yeast straight into the bowl of your mixmaster. Using the dough hook, start whizzing.
- With the motor running add the water and continue to beat until mostly combined.
- Start adding the flour one cup at a time. Stop when the dough forms and starts to move away from the sides of the bowl. Don’t worry if you need less or more than the recipe stipulates.
- At this point tip onto a floured work surface and knead vigourously until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Separate the challah and make the blessing
- Place dough in a large oiled bowl, turning the dough so that it is lightly oiled all over.
- Cover the dough and leave to rise in a warm place for about 23 hours.
- Shape the challah loaves and place on a greased baking tray. Brush with egg wash (beaten egg) and decorate with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or streusel. Leave to rise for another 15 – 20 minutes.
- Bake at 180° C for 30-40 minutes until nicely browned.