The Jewish mother inside me has been dying to get out and try baking a challah. I didn’t feel quite equipped to do this on my own, so I invited over Stav, the Israeli graduate student that I’ve been hosting in my lab all month, to come over and help me bake one. Stav had a recipe from her mother-in-law so we were locked and loaded and ready to go.
Neither of us really knew what we were doing, but I think the end product was pretty fantastic if I do say so myself :) Well Stav claims that she didn’t know what she was doing and she had never made a challah on her own before, but she did a great job pulling it together. I, on the other hand, had truly never made a challah from scratch and mostly I just ended up photo-documenting the experience :)
Measuring out ingredients for the challah – I love how happy Stav looks!
Challah is a delicious egg bread that involves a simple list of ingredients: flour, sugar, yeast, egg yolks, olive oil, sugar, and some sesame seeds. Mind you it does take a while to prep and bake to prepare for that. Luckily we had plenty of time to wait for the challah to rise since we decided to make a huge Middle Eastern feast consisting of fattoush, watermelon salad, and shakshuka while waiting for the bread to rise and bake, but you can get creative with your time.
Kneading the dough. Side note – how cute does Stav look in my apron? I bought it in the Amalfi coast of Italy where everyone is obsessed in lemons.
To make the challah dough, first mix together 0.5 kg of flour, 1 tbsp dry yeast, 2 tbsp sugar and a little room temperature water and mix it with your hands in a bowl. This is a bit touch and go getting the right flour to water ratio, but mix it up until it is well mixed and not too sticky and then add 2 egg yolks and 3 tbsp olive oil. At this point knead the dough really well with your hands. At the very end add 1 tbsp salt. Don’t add the salt too soon otherwise it interferes with the yeast. Next cover it with a towel and let it sit and rise somewhere warm for 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on how hot it is outside or in your kitchen.
Kneading the dough for a second time. Really use some strength here!
After it’s risen the first time, knead it really well for several minutes and punch out all the air. This is time to get our all of your aggression! Then make three strands and braid the challah straight onto the baking sheet. We sprayed the baking sheet with a bit of pam first so the bread wouldn’t stick and Stav braided two beautiful little challahs.
Braiding the challah
Brush the top with egg yolk and then sprinkled some sesame seeds on top. Let rise for another half an hour after this and preheat the oven to 375 F.
We had to wait a long time for the challah to rise before putting it in the oven
How long it takes to cook depends on your oven but for us it took less than 20 minutes for it to get golden brown and firm. It tasted so fresh and warm and chewy and was great dipped into the zhoug mixture, which is a spicy Middle Eastern mixture of some combination of coriander leaves, green chile, garlic and either caraway seed or cumin. I bought both green and red zhoug spice mixes at the Arab shuk in Jerusalem when I was in Israel and hadn’t figured out an opportunity to use them yet. We mixed them with olive oil and dipped pita and challah into it which was great. My friend Claire also suggested mixing it in with Greek yogurt and olive oil which I will have to try next. We also ended up adding the red zhoug to the shakshuka so it is a great flavorful spicy spice mixture to have around. Let me know if you have anymore tips for how I can use it :)
Everybody holla for challah!
In addition to baking the challah I had also been wanting to use the rose water which I also bought in Israel. Stav knew that I had been wanting to use the rose water so she suggested that we make a popular Israeli dessert that features rose water called malabi.
Ingredients for malabi: milk, cream, sugar, corn starch
As you may recall from my previous posts about eating my way through Israel, we ate this delicious vegan pudding with coconut and rose water called sachleb at one of the restaurants we went to, which is very similar to malabi. Malabi is a creamy, milk based pudding that is super popular in Israel and most importantly utilizes rose water. To make this dish for real it requires hours of chilling in the fridge, but we were make shift and put it in the freezer while we ate dinner so that it would set faster.
Ladling the malabi into glasses
Malabi is pretty basic and involves only milk, cream, corn starch, sugar, and rose water for the pudding base. I’m going to be a bit make shift mixing European and American units because this recipe came from Stav, but hopefully you can catch the drift :) The first step is to mix together 8 tbsp of corn starch with 1 cup of milk and whisk it until it’s dissolved. It’s sticky and viscous but keep at it, and add a couple squeezes of rose water to this mixture. Meanwhile, measure out 1 liter of milk (minus the cup you mixed with the corn starch and rose water) and 250 mL cream and put it in a pot on the stove and start to boil. Right before it starts to boil, add the corn starch milk mixture, and also add 0.5 cup of sugar. Then bring it to boil again, and once it starts boiling take it off the heat and turn off the stove. Then find some pretty cups or small glasses to pour it in. I had some whiskey tumblers that a friend had given me so we used those. It was really hot so we set them to cool by my window while we cooked the dinner.
Malabi cooling on the window sill
When ready to serve the malabi, mix together sugar and water to make a simple syrup in a pan. We got creative and added some crushed raspberries (they were on sale at Berkeley bowl!) and some more rose water. We poured the syrup on top of the pudding. Then we sprinkled on chopped up peanuts and shredded coconuts.
Malabi with rose water and crushed raspberries syrup
Stav said we could also try adding date syrup and pistachios, which I might have to try next time I make it since another ingredient that I happened to buy in Israel was date syrup :) The malabi was fruity and floral and fresh tasting and a great end to a fantastic meal.
Malabi – Israel milk based pudding with rose water, raspberries, shredded coconut, and crushed peanuts
And here is my lab enjoying the challah on Friday:
Challah time in the Bruns lab!