The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Gordon from Indiana

sonofYah's picture

Gordon from Indiana


My name is Gordon Hayes. I live in SW Indiana with my wife and two daughters. I am 45+.

I have been baking bread since I was around 15, though not continuously. I have been cooking since I was 13. I have to say that baking bread is my favorite.

I bake mostly whole-grain and sourdough breads. I bake the Challah bread for our small Messianic synagogue in nearby Evansville, IN. I mix whole wheat and bread flour about 50-50 for this. Am going to try naturally leavened Challah bread soon.

I am advancing my bread making skills with information from the 'Net and various books. I recently bought [color=FF99FF]Bread[/color] by Jeff Hamelman. I like it and the recipes are fairly easy to scale. I am reading [color=FF99FF]The Bread Baker's Apprentice [/color]by Peter Reinhart. I also own [color=FF99FF]The Italian Baker [/color]by Carol Field. All three are excellent books IMHO.

I am working on apprenticing myself out to a professional artisan bread baker in Evansville, IN. I would love to open a small Bread Shop/Deli/Coffee Shop in our town. 8-)

scarlett75's picture

Hi Gordon,

Glad to see another newbie here. :)

I was looking at a recipe for Challah bread this afternoon. Is it as difficult as the book ("Breads from the La Brea Bakery" - Ruth Reichl) would have one believe? It looks like it would be a bear to braid. :/

Any tips or recipes you prefer would be appreciated.

Welcome to the fresh loaf!

Floydm's picture

Welcome, Gordon. Good to have you here.

Scarlett: I don't think Challah has to be complicated, but it can be. But I'm a gentile who has only made Challah once, so what do I know?

If you are interested in Challah I'd recommend taking a look at A Blessing of Bread : The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking Around the World, which won the James Beard award for best baking book this year. I found a copy at the library last night, so I haven't had a chance to bake anything from it yet, but from what I've read it is an impressive book: something along the lines of a Village Baker (meaning more of an emphasis on authenticity and on capturing the stories behind the breads than on adapting them for the home baker) for Jewish breads. There are over 20 Challah recipes (sweet ones, sourdough ones, whole grain ones, ones with apples or raisins and caraway, and so on) as well as recipes for bagels, pitas, babka, and many other things.

She's got a lot of info on the different braiding techniques used for making Challah as well as the prayers and symbolism that go along with the bread.

sonofYah's picture

Thanks Chris.

It's not a particularly hard bread to make. But then I have been making it at least weekly for about 1-1/2 to 2 years. I don't have the book you mentioned. But I did find a good recipe in Beth Hensperger's book, Bread Made Easy . At least I think that was the book. Will have to double check. The book Floyd mentions is one I would like to get. Sounds great.

Many times I will mix my ingredients in my bread machince on 'dough' cycle. Then I fold or punch down the dough and let it rest for about 15 minutes or so. After the rest, I divide the dough into three equal pieces. I roll the pieces out into a rope about 14 in. long. Then I brush it with egg wash before the final rise. Before putting in the oven, give it another light egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired.

There are two ways of braiding the bread. You can overlap the pieces in the middle and work from the middle to each end. Or you can pinch one end of the three pieces together and braid it like you would hair. Pinch the final end. Fold both ends under slightly to hide the pinch.

Once you get good at the three-braid loaf, you can get adventurous and try a six-braid loaf. I've done a few. But not many. I still have to think through each step as I go along. But they are beautiful when done in a six-braid.

Challah is a very good all-around dough. You can easily form it free-form, loaf, rolls, etc. Let your imagination run with it. It doesn't have to be braided. For example, when we celebrate Rosh HaShanah, I make it in the shape of a round crown and add raisins. Sometimes I add poppy seeds.

The recipe I use normally is from my bread machine recipe book. I will put it in the recipe forum.

A little trivia about Challah:

Traditionally Challah bread has seven ingredients. Seven is a number signifying completion or perfection in the Scriptures. God/YHVH rested on the seventh day and the world was complete.

Traditionally a piece of the dough is seperated before shaping. This piece is burned in the oven as an offering of praise to YHVH. Before placing it in the oven, a blessing is pronounced over it. The blessing is generally said in Hebrew. But if one does not know Hebrew, their native tongue is just fine.

For those interested, the blessing in English is, "Blessed art thou, O Lord Our God, King of the universe who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to seperate challah."

The Lubavitcher Orthodox Jews use the six-braid loaf. Since two loaves are traditionally baked for the Shabat meal, this is symbolic of the twelve loaves which were placed in the Holy Place on the Table of Showbread in the Tabernacle and later Temple.

Some Jewish bakers leave the salt out of the recipe. This is because there is no Temple in which to offer the sacrifices today. When the loaf is eaten, The bread piece is dipped in salt before eating.

Before eating the Challah, the bread is lifted up and another blessing is pronounced. It is, "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." Traditionally, two loaves of challah are baked for the Shabat meal.

One site I visited stated that the poppy seeds symbolized the manna in the wilderness.

Have fun with the dough. And enjoy the bread