I love researching the history of food, and one of the foremost experts on the history of Jewish Food is Gil Marks. I am going to have the immense honor of dining with him and hopefully picking his brain a bit. His entry about Challah in his book, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, explains the different traditions of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities for eating bread on Shabbat: whereas Ashkenazi communities had little access to white wheat flour, and so reserved it for the challah on Shabbat, the Sephardi world had easier access to white flour, and so the difference between weekday and Shabbat bread was not so much in the type of flour used, but in different variations of the bread itself, including adding sesame seeds, or even switching to whole wheat flour.
After reading this entry in Marks’ encyclopedia, I wondered if my ancestors would think that my festive challah made from whole wheat, rye and white flour would be fitting enough for our holiest holidays, and I hope the answer would be yes. I have a recipe for muesli buns that I thought would make an interesting challah for this year’s Rosh Hashana, and it didn’t disappoint. It might be a bit unconventional, but I am an unconventional kind of girl. I also made my tried and true challah for the plain eaters in the family.
This year, as every year, we celebrated Rosh Hashana with family and friends in Jerusalem. It was an interesting group as we represented the best of the Israeli table, one that represented several different countries: Israel, Holland, England, Germany, France, the Philippines and the United States. We thought of loved ones we missed who are no longer here or are far away, we laughed, and we thought of all of the things we want to do to make this year more sweet, more healthy, more prosperous, and most importantly more peaceful.
May you be inscribed in the Book of Life and we hope you have happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful new year.
Baroness Tapuzina and Mr BT
500 grams (4 cups) whole wheat flour
300 grams (3-1/3 cups) rye flour
300 grams (3-1/3 cups) all purpose flour
30 grams (2 tablespoons) salt
50 grams (2 ounces) fresh yeast
740 ml (3 cups) cold water
100 grams (3.5 ounces) raisins
100 grams dried figs (3.5 ounces), cut into quarters
100 grams prunes (3.5 ounces), cut into quarters
100 grams hazelnuts, roasted
100 grams Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
400 grams mixture of flax seed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
Honey for drizzling on top
Add the flours and salt to a mixer with a dough hook and mix until combined. Crumble the fresh yeast over the flour mixture and add the cold water. Mix initially at low speed and then increase the speed to medium until the dough separates from the sides of the bowl. The dough will still be a little sticky. If the dough is too dry, add water, a tablespoon at a time. Lower the speed and add the dried fruits and hazelnuts. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a towel or cellophane, and let rise for about 1 hour until it doubles in size.
Punch the dough down and place on a clean, floured, work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into eight pieces, hand-rolling each piece into a long snake, and braid into two loaves with four strands each. Brush each loaf with honey and sprinkle the seed mixture on top.
Place each loaf on a lined baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise for about 30 minutes.
Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180C (350F). This bread freezes well.
For buns: Make half a recipe and divide the dough into 12 pieces and bake for 15 minutes.