Challah Recipe

Here it is…one of my most frequently-asked-for recipes. Republished just for you!

When I was growing up, we used to buy our challah from the Publix bakery. (Publix is a supermarket in Florida; I don’t know if they’re around the country)Publix makes a GOOD challah. (They also make great sheet cake)

Yes! I made this beautiful looking challah. Freshly ground whole wheat and delicious!
The name of this bread, “challah” is so due to the word “separate.” A challah has a small amount separated and offered to G-d. I never knew this until I moved to Israel; I always thought that challah was just a yummy egg bread.
Here is the Bible reference:
Numbers 15:17-21 The LORD instructed Moses: 18 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: After you enter the land where I am bringing you, 19 you are to offer a contribution to the LORD when you eat from the food of the land. 20 You are to offer a loaf from your first batch of dough as a contribution; offer it just like a contribution from the threshing floor. 21 Throughout your generations, you are to give the LORD a contribution from the first batch of your dough.

When I learned the importance of using freshly ground flour and started making my own bread, I needed a good challah recipe. I tried variations, but this one has been the best so far.
RECIPE
1 3/4 c water
1/3 c oil
2/3 c honey
1 1/2 tbsp yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, plus another beaten egg set aside for brushing on later (4 eggs total)
7-8 c freshly ground whole wheat flour
1/4-1/2 raisins (optional. But I always use them.)

Combine water, oil, honey and yeast, and 3 eggs. Add half the flour and salt, mix. Add the rest of the flour and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10-15 mins by hand or about 5-6 mins in KitchenAid stand mixer). Let rise till double. Shape, adding raisins if desired. Brush with beaten egg, let rise till double again. Bake at 325F for about 25 mins. Brush again with beaten egg for the last 5 mins of baking.

This recipe makes 2 small loaves (usually a regular 3 braid) or one large (4 or 6 braid).
I have better luck getting it to rise and be big and puffy if I do a large loaf, with a braid using 4 strands. Below is a video showing one way to braid with 6; there are many ways. Do whatever you like and enjoy!
If you want to know more about challah, here is another article and recipe: Challah: The Divine Dough
Shabbat Shalom!

Back in the Baking Game

I’ve found that there are a few types of things in life that people naturally categorize themselves into those who do and those who don’t.

For example: baking. When I was a child, my baking was limited to following directions on a ready-made mix box.  (By the way, did you know you can make your own mixes?)  Anybody who baked “from scratch” was seemingly in a whole different league. So, I did bake, but only from a box.

Then I found out why it is so important to use whole wheat flour, and later still why it should be freshly milled.  Not only did I begin to bake from scratch, but I became someone who did make bread.

Since our move, I have not made any bread until just a few days ago. We sold our grain mill, and with all the stress of everything, it just wasn’t something I prioritized.  However, I’ve finally decided that enough is enough. Even if it isn’t freshly milled, it’s still better than the alternative.

Tonight we’ll have some Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans) soup with freshly made garlic herbed bread.

The soup is simple: take chopped carrot, celery, and onion and saute. Add some water, can of crushed tomato, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and cooked white beans.  If you’d like, add other veggies like: cubed eggplant, cut green beans, peas, sliced mushrooms.  Simmer till yummy and serve over small pasta like macaroni.

And as for the bread, just make this baguette recipe and add some dried herbs into the dough.  I usually add 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp of oregano or basil.

Breadsticks/Baguette/Pizza Dough Recipe


This is my most versatile bread recipe. It came from my BreadBeckers cookbook. I use it for Pizza, Breadsticks, or French bread. Here it is:

1 1/4 c hot water
1/2 c milk (I use fresh almond milk) -makes lukewarm temp. when combined
2 Tbs. oil
1 Tbs. honey
2 tsp. instant yeast
4-5 cups freshly milled flour (here’s why)
2 tsp salt

Combine water, milk, yeast, oil, and honey. Add flour and salt. Stir until well mixed. Knead to make a smooth ball (about 5-10 mins by hand). Let rise until double. Turn dough onto a generously floured surface working with just enough flour to make the dough workable.

For Pizza Dough: Divide in half. Use rolling pin to roll to desired thickness; place on oiled pans for about 20 mins to rise. Bake 15 mins in preheated 400 F oven. Cool, add toppings at convinience, then bake again about 20-30 mins till done. (We use lots of toppings; it takes longer to dry out than it would with few toppings. Nobody likes soggy pizza!)

For French Baguette: Divide for 2 small, or leave together for 1 big loaf. I usually do one. Roll into a rectangle and then roll each side in tightly, tucking under the ends. Placed on greased pan. Let rise until double. Bake at 400F for about 30 mins. May glaze with slightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds the last 5 mins of baking.

For Breadsticks: Roll out onto oiled pans, and use a pizza cutter to cut into strips. Let rise about 20 mins, then bake at 400F about 15 mins. I like to sprinkle with oregano before final rise, and baste with butter as soon as they come out. I also add 1 tsp garlic powder to the dough if I want them garlicky. Yum.

Is Wonderbread Making You Sterile? Part 2

ENRICHMENT OF FLOUR
In the 1940s, a flour enrichment program was instituted to compensate for wartime shortages of other foods. However, in the ‘enriched’ flour only the B vitamins – thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin – and the mineral, iron, were added. Flour ‘Enrichment’ implies a loss of nutrients and should not be equated with wholesomeness. For approximately 20 nutrients, there is an average loss of 70-80% in refined and enriched flour. When you eat this, you are placing your body at a disadvantage, casting a burden on the rest of the diet.

Prosser, WA. An old grain mill downtown near Twin City Foods

ADULTERATION OF FLOUR
Flour manufacturers want to make as much money as possible. For example, removing the germ not only prevents flour spoilage, it generates profits when sold to millfeed producers and pharmaceutical companies.
For centuries, bakers have known that ‘good quality’ baked goods could not be made with freshly milled flour, because the dough lacks strength and resilience to trap gas. Until the 20th century it was common practice of storing flour for months to allow oxygen to condition it.

However, as well as storage costs, spoilage and insects caused losses. Chemical oxidizing agents or bleaches were developed to produce the same aging effects in 24-48 hours. They cause one of two effects: oxidation of the gluten to help with rising, and bleaching of the yellowish carotene pigments which could have been sources of vitamin A.

Bleaching agents did not come into use without opposition. Harvey W. Wiley, Chief of the FDA early this century, won a Supreme Court decision outlawing bleaches, but he was forced out of the FDA, and the Supreme Court order was bypassed. The approval of chlorine dioxide as a bleaching agent was also protested by U.S. Army nutrition experts.

Today, in both Canada and the US, the addition of numerous chemicals to white, whole wheat, and rye flours is permitted. These include chlorine, chlorine dioxide, benzoyl peroxide, potassium bromate, ammonium persulfate, ammonium chloride, acetone peroxide, azodicarbonamide, ascorbic acid, l-cysteine, mono-calcium phosphate. Regulations also specify the acceptable levels. In many European countries the use of additives is almost completely prohibited. In Germany, for instance, chemical oxidizing agents were banned in 1958.

Nitrogen bichloride was one of the earliest bleaching agents. After 40 years of use, it was finally found to cause canine hysteria, and was outlawed. The currently most common bleaching agent is benzoyl peroxide. It must be neutralized by adding such substances as: calcium carbonate (chalk!), calcium sulphate, dicalcium phosphate, magnesium carbonate, potassium aluminum sulphate, sodium aluminum sulphate, starch, and tricalcium phosphate.

The most common maturing agent in use is potasssium bromate, and it is added with carriers such as calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, or magnesium carbonate.

In addition to the chemicals permitted to be added to flour, many more are permitted to be added to bread before baking. Chemicals likely to be found in breads include: lecithin, mono- and di- glycerides, carragheenan, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, dicalcium sulfate, ammonium chloride, potassium bromate, calcium bromate, potassium iodate, calcium peroxide, azodicarbonamide, tricalcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium propionate, sodium propionate, sodium diacetate, lactic acid, calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate, lactylic stearate, sodium stearyl fumarate, succinylated monoglycerides, ethoxylated mono- and all-glycerides.

In Germany, propionic acid, sodium propionate, calcium propionate, and potassium propionate have been banned as preservatives since March 1988. This was in response to earlier experiments which found that rats fed these substances developed tumors.

In addition to all of this, grains may be irradiated to help prevent spoilage and bugs. This also affects the nutrients, and not in a good way.

Have you read enough? I know I’m tired from typing (or even copying and pasting) all those chemical names. They certainly should have no place in our diets!

So, you say, you don’t eat white bread, so you don’t need to worry about hurting your body by eating all those chemicals? Well….

Stay tuned for part 3, where I tell you what can happen even from “whole wheat” bread and flour.

Most of the information presented in these posts came from Nutritional Characteristics of Organic, Freshly Stone-Ground, Sourdough & Conventional Breads by Judy Campbell, B.Sc., Mechtild Hauser, and Stuart Hill, B.Sc., Ph.D., P.Ag.

Is Wonderbread Making You Sterile? Part 1

I LOVE bread with butter; I think I could eat it all day long. When I became more health conscious, I switched to whole wheat, like most of you probably have. But most people don’t really think about the potential nutritional value of bread which makes up a major part of their diet.

How much bread do you eat? I bet more than you think. We have 5 children. All but the new baby eat sandwiches for lunch almost every day. Add one for me most days, and that’s TEN SLICES OF BREAD each week per person, and that’s just for lunches. On Shabbat we enjoy a sweet Challah loaf (or two), and we eat bread with a dinner meal at least 2 or 3 times a week. That’s a LOT of bread.

Are all whole wheat breads the same? Is the whole wheat flour you buy at the store really better for you than the white flour? Why would anyone be crazy enough to spend the time and effort to grind his own flour? I’m going to answer questions like these and more, and you will likely be very surprised at what you learn. I know I was. (Hint: see the title)

A Little About Wheat
The kernel of wheat is composed of the outer bran layer, the germ, and the endosperm. It is rich in nutrients, many of which are concentrated in the bran and germ. It contains the entire B complex, except for vitamin B12.

Wheat germ has a very high content of vitamin E. Vitamin E increases the good HDL cholesterol. Animal studies have also shown that vitamin E protects against free radicals released by the body when it is exposed to toxic chemicals.

During the milling process, steel rollers crush the grain, and the flour separated by sifters. The bran and germ are totally removed in this process. They are used in the production of animal feeds and by pharmaceutical laboratories for making diet supplements.

Whole wheat flour is produced by recombining ground bran with endosperm flour, but the germ is usually left out, because it would go rancid.

In the next post I’ll describe what gets done to the flour, after all the nutritious parts are removed, before you either buy it at the store to bring home, or it gets baked into bread that you buy. Stay tuned!
Most of the information presented in these posts came from Nutritional Characteristics of Organic, Freshly Stone-Ground, Sourdough & Conventional Breads by Judy Campbell, B.Sc., Mechtild Hauser, and Stuart Hill, B.Sc., Ph.D., P.Ag.