The braided bread – Challah or Kitka

I went to a Jewish pre-primary school called Shalom. I am not of Jewish decent but neither was any of the other kids, okay there was one little boy.

We learnt some of the traditions, songs and various celebrations related around Judaism. The most memorable of all was the Sabbath.

Every Friday we would all sit down at a large table, the “mother” and “father” – a boy and a girl were chosen to sit at the head of the table and present the Challah, or Kitka as we called it along with saying a prayer and lighting the candles.

To this day the smell of that bread still haunts me in the best way possible… Personally there is something poignant about freshly baked bread.

I can only imagine those suffers that choose to follow these gluten free bull dust diets having to restrain themselves from the decadence of a warm freshly baked loaf. Having to abscond in public, but then rushing off home to shovel croissants and cup cakes into their faces. You poor fools, I really do not understand how anyone could willingly give up bread.

Fridays were an absolute highlight, especially if it was my turn to sit at the head of the table. Sipping on my grape juice and tearing off the largest piece of bread I could find, generally heading straight to the middle of the bread. Being only 4 or 5 years old at the time it is still a vivid memory, and a happy one at that.

When baking this bread again it brought back all those happy childhood memories.

I hope this bread finds a soft spot in you heart, and stomach. Enjoy and shalom.

Ingredients:

1 packet dry yeast

1 ¼ cups lukewarm water

1 tsp salt

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup olive oil

2 eggs

5 saffron threads

5 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 egg yolk with 1 tbsp milk for glazing

1 tbsp poppy seeds

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the tepid water, yeast, salt, sugar, eggs, oil and saffron.
  2. Using your hands start adding the flour gradually combining until it all comes together and forms a rough dough and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Flour the surface of a counter and knead the dough for 10-20 minutes. Keep adding flour if necessary while kneading to prevent sticking. Knead until the dough has a smooth surface and has an elastic consistency.
  4. Place your dough in a lightly oiled a bowl, cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to prove in a warm area for 1 ½ hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. The dough then needs to be punched down, to release the air bubbles, and in a kneading motion expel the air on a floured surface.
  6. Divide the dough into 5 equal sized pieces. Reserve a piece on the side for later.
  7. The other four pieces can be rolled into 20cm long strips. Connect the four strands at one end, by pressing the dough together.Starting with the right hand strand of dough thread it over the next one, under the following one, and over the third. Always starting with the right strand, repeat until the braid in complete, pinching the dough at the end.
  8. With the reserved piece of dough divide into three equal sized strips and roll each to 10cm long. Make a three strand braid and place it in the middle of the bread.
  9. Place the braided loaf on a floured baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.
  10. Using a soft paint brush egg wash the loaf with the egg and milk. Try not spill any on the baking sheet as it will make the bread stick.Sprinkle with the poppy seeds.
  11. Bake at 160˚C for 30 minutes or until golden. Using a cake tester to ensure it is baked all the way through. The best test to guarantee your bread is completely baked is to tap the bread at the bottom of the loaf, and it should give a hollow sound.

Tip: if you have left over bread, (which is unlikely in my house) it would be great for French toast, or even a bread and butter pudding.


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