Friday, May 11, 2012

Shavuot Recipe Book: Dairy Challah

There are many stories that explain the tradition of eating dairy foods on Shavuot, but none are truly conclusive.  Some simply connect it to the idea from Exodus that the Israelites would leave Egypt and go to the land "flowing with milk and honey."  Here's another interesting tidbit if you like gematria...
A sage discovered that the initials of the four Hebrew words in Numbers 28:26, which describe the sacrificial meal offering on Shavuot, spell mei halav (from milk), suggesting that dairy food is the acceptable dinner for the festival. At Sinai, the Israelites were considered to be as innocent as newborns, whose food is milk. {Source}
Cool, right?  There's more on that link that talks about halav (milk) having the same gematria value as the number of days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai... a stretch?  Perhaps, but I do love puzzles!
(Yup!  That's a puzzle.  We're become a little... obsessed with puzzles.)

I've made challah with milk before... Sprouted Wheat with Milk and Honey Challah included milk because I read (somewhere) that milk helps relax the wheat.  I wasn't honestly convinced that it made much of a difference, but it was a fun experiment anyway!

This recipe will yield one large or two medium-size loaves.

2 1/4 instant yeast (1 packet)
3 c bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 c milk, slightly warmed (I used skim)
1 heaping tbsp basswood or other dark honey
2 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash

This challah was the first one that I actually used instant yeast like one is supposed to use instant yeast... I just mixed it in with the flour. Normally, I've been afraid of that and proof it just like active dry yeast, although you don't have to do that.

Mix together the yeast, flour, and salt.  Can you spot the yeast here?
Yeah, me neither.

On the stove in a small pan, warm the milk and honey, stirring constantly. Add the milk/honey mixture and the eggs to the flour/yeast mixture.
shavuot_milk_02 shavuot_milk_03
Blend with a wooden spoon and then knead by hand or on the stand mixture until a ball forms.
While you're mixing, you can use this time to catch up on your favorite shows... Downton Abbey, anyone?
Let rest in an oiled bowl for about an hour and a half or until doubled in bulk.  Braid as normal and allow to rest an additional 20-30 minutes.  Egg wash and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Now, here's the part where I get honest.  I have no beautiful pictures of this challah to share.  I got a little... cavalier... with my challah shape.  I read a lovely little story in Maggie Glezer's A Blessing of Bread on Ladder Challah.  Glezer writes:
The ladder-shaped challah, which is served on Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, symbolizes spiritual ascension and Mount Sinai because the Hebrew words for "ladder" and "Sinai" have identical numerical value (as shown in the mystical study of Torah called gematria).  {A Blessing of Bread, 79.}
So, I set to work.  I started with a flattened disk and added the rungs.
shavuot_milk_06 shavuot_milk_07
It looked pretty great! I was very proud.
And oh dear. What a disastrous result.
With the popularity of Pinterest, there have also appeared a lot of Pinterest Fail Blogs that will show a picture of the goal and the picture of one's own result with the phrase, "Nailed it." I think I nailed it.  Oy.

Luckily, I also made some rolls that DID turn out quite lovely.  This challah has a sweetness to it that's a bit unexpected.  It also has a darker color, which I suspect is from the basswood honey.  It's a bit tough to work with... I think it's the lack of oil.  But, overall, I wouldn't change a thing.  It was a really nice dairy challah!
We'll be tweaking our Shavuot recipes over the next few weeks!  Have a recipe to share?  A request for something special?  Send to it me at themrs {at} thechallahblog {dot} com or leave a comment here!


  1. Hi there! Your challas look delicious I almost smelled them thru my screen. But I have to mention that according to Halacha it's not so simple to bake milchig challah. and I quote
    One is not supposed to bake bread with dairy, for they might eat it by mistake with meat. And if it was indeed baked with dairy one cannot eat the bread even by itself, unless it's small enough to be eaten at once, or a change in the bread itself was made. And that's why we can eat dairy breads on Shvuous since it's either small or it's recognizable.
    אין לשין עיסה בחלב שמא יבוא לאכלה עם בשר ואם לש כל הפת אסור, אפי' לאכלה לבדה. ואם
    הי' דבר מועט כדי אכילה בבת אחת או
    ששינה צורת הפת שתהא ניכרת שלא יאכל בה בשר מותר
    ה נ ה ולכן נוהגין ללוש פת עם חלב בחג השבועות גם בשומן לכבול שבת כי כל זה מחשב כדבר מועט גם כי צורתן
    משונה משאר פת