As a kid I couldn’t take my eyes away from my mother or grandmother, when they made home-bread for Shabbat. I was hypnotized by Eema and Mama’s swift gestures and from the process itself. For years I assumed that it was hard to make because they didn’t let me help (they used to give me a piece of the dough to play with to keep me busy and quiet.) However, when I became a mother and started to bake bread from my family, I realized why they didn’t let me help because I would have slowed them down. They had many chores to finish before the Shabbat entered.
Bread rolls & challahs
- 4 cups spelt or all-purpose flour + extra for dusting
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 1 - 1½ cups lukewarm filtered water
- 2 teaspoons coconut sugar or honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 eggs - optional + 1 for brushing the rolls
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Sesame seeds or/and poppy seeds
- Put the flour into a big bowl, add the yeast, and stir with a big whisk or wooden spoon until well combined.
- In a big measuring cup stir together the warm water, sugar or honey, salt and olive oil.
- Pour the liquid into the flour bowl. Using one hand, mix it with flour. If you are using eggs, add them now. If you don’t use eggs, add ½ cup of water. The dough should be sticky. It would get less sticky as you knead it.
- Kneading. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a clean, floured surface. Make sure it is at a height where you are comfortable working. If the dough is too stiff, add a little bit of warm water. If the dough is way too sticky, sprinkle additional flour over it.
- Gather the dough into a pile and begin pressing it together. Press the heels of your palms firmly into the dough, pushing forward slightly. Fold the far edge of the dough upwards, towards you, and press it into the middle of the ball. Rotate it slightly. Repeat this press-fold-turn sequence for as long as your hands can go (about 10 minutes).
- shape the dough into a nice round ball, put it back in the big bowl, dust it with flour and cover with a plastic wrap or a moist clean kitchen towel. Set the bowl in a warm place (not too warm - not on top of a radiator or in the sun, in the winter I use a folded tablecloth over the plastic wrap to keep it warm - something my mom used to do) and let it rise until it doubles its size - about 1½ hours.
- When the dough has doubled in size, you need to knock the air out of it by pressing it down with your palm. Knead it for 1 minute into a ball. Using a knife, cut the dough into 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a roll or divide it into three and braid it into a mini challa, or divide the dough into two and make two big challas.
- Place the rolls or challas with a 2 inch gap between them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Dust them with flour and cover with a plastic wrap or moist clean kitchen towel. Let them proof until they double in size again, about 30 - 45 minutes. Second rising time will give it a great soft texture, so don't rush it.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Beat the egg and gently brush the rolls with it, sprinkle some sesame or poppy seeds over and gently put the rolls into the oven (middle rack). Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. You can tell if the rolls are fully baked by tapping them on the bottom, if the sound is hollow, it's baked. If not, put it back in the oven for a little longer in the lower rack.
- Let them cool on a wire rack.