At some point today I looked outside and the wind was toying with the leaves in a very Octobery fashion. The morning started out chilly, but before you know it, the temperatures rose and reminded me that even if we are officially in fall now, Texas is still purty warm.
But what was it that made the breeze and the leaves look like October? The color of the sky behind them? I don't know, but whatever it is, I like it. Fall is my very favorite season.
My grain shipment, all 2,500 lbs of it, was supposed to arrive yesterday so I could bake today.
It did not.
I had just enough spelt berries left to fulfill an order of apple raisin challah for a farmer's market customer. Tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A time to think about new beginnings, cast aside those regrets, say our sorries, and be thankful for forgiveness. A time to hope for sweetness to temper the inevitable bitterness that seems to seep into peoples' lives.
I have eaten challah, but never made it. My customer was thrilled to imagine challah made with freshly milled spelt, even if it wasn't kosher.
After a diligent search of several recipes, I felt very inspired. Almost in awe that bread has such an important part of our spiritual life: daily bread, the eucharist, a sweet hopeful symbol.
It was a joy to bake that bread. Unique, because instead of the usual list of different breads, the challah was the one and only star of the show (seeing as I was completely out of more grain). As it came together, I thought of the thousands of other women and men kneading and forming their challah, offering the gift of their hands to their loved ones, hoping for sweetness and joy.
The best reward for me was the review given by children, hungry after school, happy to demolish two loaves, regardless of the fact that it is not quite the right day! How in the world could we wait one more day??? And regardless of the fact that we are gentile thru and thru. "Great!" "Can I have some more?" Will you please make this bread every week?" "Mom, this is my new favorite!"
I guess I had better share the recipe with you. I hope some of you will give it a try. And to everyone, as we enter into a new season, may we all enjoy much sweetness.
Spelt Apple Raisin Challah
1 TBSP yeast
3 1/2 c. freshly milled spelt flour (or whatever you prefer to use)
1/4-1/2c warm water
3 lg eggs, plus 1 for glaze
1 1/2 tsp salt
Mix the warm water, yeast and 1/4 c of flour. Let yeast dissolve. You can do this in a bowl, by hand, but I used my Bosch mixer. Add eggs, salt, honey and oil and the 3 1/4 cups of flour. Mix together well. Continue to add flour, but tablespoon by tablespoon, so you don't make the dough too dense and dry. Knead until dough is satiny, bouncy and very stretchy.
Set dough aside, cover well with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise for at least two hours or until double or triple. Punch down and let rise again. Divide dough into two or four pieces. Roll the dough out into a rectangular shape, nice and thin, aproximately 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. The dough should be flexible and pliable. At this point, scatter chopped apples and raisins across the top of the dough, then fold it up lengthwise. Twist the long rope of fruity dough like a snake. I felt kind of like I was back at Kindergarten! Coil the dough into a spiral, starting in the center, then round and round to make a beautiful round loaf, tucking the end under and pinching to seal.
Cover the loaves and let rise until double. Brush an egg glaze over the loaves (egg, sucanat or sugar and a spoonful of water). Sprinkle raw sugar over the loaves and bake in a 325 degree oven until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when thumped. I had to cover mine with a bit of aluminum foil so the top wouldn't over-brown.
Even though the bread was made with 100% whole spelt, not even one little bit of white flour, it was tender, light, with an incredible crumb. I think we will have to make challah a Friday tradition in our house. YUM!
PS for you bakers out there, I know this is a rather brief, off the top of my head recipe. If it doesn't make sense, email me for more info and I will edit this post later. But there are several online sources to help you in your challah adventures and I hope you will give them a try!