Led by Rabbi Yosef Shapiro and his wife, Rookie, the Atlanta Scholars Kollel’s Brookhaven and Buckhead branch held its third annual pre-Rosh Hashanah challah bake. The inaugural event at the newly-built center was attended by 18 women who discussed the significance of Rosh Hashanah, particularly the choice to eat honey over other sweets in celebration of the new year.
As explained by host Rookie Shapiro, the holiday provides Jews “with the context to move on during times of struggle.” She likened the potential for negative experiences to transform into positives to the way bees, which are known to scare people, produce sweet honey. The group also learned about the mitzvah of hafrashas challah or separating the challah. This custom involves tearing off a small chunk of dough and burning it before baking. This offering was originally given to a kohen. ASK explains that today, “we burn that challah before we can eat the bread from which it was taken. … This tells us that whatever we are given is not for our use alone. If we have wisdom, money or good health, our first step is to put them towards a Divine purpose.”
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups warm water
8 to 9 cups bread flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup oil
1 egg yolk
Mix yeast, warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl and set aside for 8 to 10 minutes until foamy.
Mix flour, 1 cup of sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Create a well with the flour mixture by pushing the flour into a mound and creating a crater in the center. Add 4 eggs, oil, and yeast mixture into the well.
Knead dough for about 10 minutes until spongy, not sticky. If dough is too sticky to manage, add a little more flour. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise for 2 to 3 hours.
Braid dough into three loaves and let them rise for 30 minutes. Brush loaves with egg yolk and sprinkle with topping of choice. Options include: sweet crumble (1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and ¼ to 1/2 cup oil mixed until crumbly), sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cinnamon sugar, za’atar, and garlic or onion flakes. Bake on 350 for 25-35 minutes until golden.
This recipe can also be made in a mixer. Simply proof yeast and then add it to the rest of the ingredients (the order is not important) and mix on medium speed for 8 minutes. If you want to fulfill the mitzvah of separating challah, you can double all ingredients (for flour use one 5-pound bag with 2 cups of bread flour). Freeze extras by wrapping baked challah in foil and then storing in a ziplock bag.
The Atlanta Scholars Kollel is a local Jewish organization that provides Jewish education and programming throughout Atlanta. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com of the Brookhaven and Buckhead branch.