I have taken so long to be able to dedicate time to this blogg, but things happen because of a reason so now I am ready to share my experiences about the beauty and soul lessons of making bread. Few months ago, I attended my second course on EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, which consists in unblocking negative energy in the body's magnetic field created by traumas and negativity in our life while working on the meridians of the body. (See: http://www.eft-courses.org.uk/what-is-eft.html). There I met a lovely lady with who spontaneously began to share our enthusiasm in making bread. I told her that one of my favourite breads to make was the Challah bread and she then told me that she was from the Jewish tradition. We had a moment of deep heart talking with each other, a moment in which we could imagine the unity and love in the Prophet Ibrahim's family and a deep desire that Inshallah, one day we will be able again all of us go back to the Prophet's way, described in the Qur'an as Al Hanif, the one living in complete consciousness of Al Haqq or The Reality without being manipulated or distracted by external or internal powers. The path in which there is no separation between his belief, his actions, his knowledge and his heart. The path that connects us to our fitra, our spiritual nature that we are all born with and unite all of us regardless of the spiritual tradition we follow, we all want to go back to it in the purest way. The Qur’an speaks of the Prophet Ibrahim standing against all the people of the town in a revel and revolutionary way against the worshiping of the pagan gods made of stone, a moment of complete truthfulness to own self and everything around him gave him the power for such bravery. In the clearing of negative patterns, ideologies and beliefs in the process of EFT this is all what it takes, recognise with truthfulness our own self. One of the greatest lessons I got from the course was to understand in a deeper level that everything around us speaks about our sickness and the medicine for our healing, and it is there for us placed mercifully to see when we are ready. Like this bread, the Challah, the lessons of life braid themselves in order to give us manna, the same way that God will feed the Israelites in the dessert. It is said in the Torah that God will give double portion on Fridays in order to be able to eat the next day, the Shabbat and spend the whole day in contemplation of God and our actions or creations it is a day dedicated to listen the way of the heart. This is what this bread means in its deeper level, to come back to the way of the heart and braid thoughts, actions, creations feelings in order to contemplate them being submerged in the One Reality as God commands the Israelites to offer one portion of the bread to Him once that they are able to start eating from the soil of the Holy Land. (See: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/335973/jewish/The-Secret-of-Challah.htm). In the Islamic tradition we will dedicate our Thursday night, or the night of Friday for duas, to talk and supplicate to God. It is very well known that by Friday, God would give you a sign to show you that your prayers have been answered which naturally leads us to a rested soul, a soul in peace and tranquillity free from needs and desires for Saturday.
Of course I don't wait until friday to make challa bread, I do it every time I feel in mood of it. But I hae done it several times on friday wih the intention of thanking God for the blessings of the week. Use the same recipe to make the doughnuts, although if your intention is to make only the doughnuts I will suggest to delete the egg yolks. This same recipe is also very nice to make bread buns. You can me the bread buns and doughnuts with no yolks and it will be fine. The yolks give a very rich taste characteristic of the challa bread. I personally don't like half way tastes, I will always suggest to use the best butter, full fat milk and free range eggs and when posible organic flour. Here is he recipe, enjoy!
If you would like to enhance the flavour you can start one night before by making a sponge otherwise just join all the ingredients the same day (the ones off the sponge and of the next day):
200 ml full fat milk
250 gr. white strong (bread) flour
1 tablespoon of cane sugar (or honey)
15 gr. of yeast (fresh if possible if not, 1 tablespoon of active yeast activated in 50 ml. of water and delete 50 ml from the milk or 1 packet of instant yeast)
Mix all the ingredients and leave this sponge for 8 hours resting covered with a cling film or a bag. Remember, more you wait, tastier it is.
250 gr white strong (bread flour)
1 tablespoon of cane sugar (or honey)
2 teaspoons of sea salt
60 gr. room temperature butter
2 eggs and 2 yolks (if you decide to prepare only the doughnuts or half recipe for doughnut and the other half for buns, or just dont like the challa so eggy, delete the yolks and add 50 ml. of milk do so little by little feeling the moist of the dough first)
If you ad a sudden desire of bread, as it happens to me all the time, and cannot wait for 8 hours just use all the ingredients all at the same time and it will be allright and still delicious.
Mix the flour with the sugar and salt and with your fingers mix the butter untill is all incorporated to the flour then add the eggs and little by little mix the dough to the sponge and kneal well. (I will write soon my knealing technique) Let the dough rest until double size or for around 1 hour in a warm place (I usually switch on the heaters and put it on the top covered with blanckets).
When ready, divide the dough in 2, one for the doughnuts and one for the Challah or buns. Make the doughnuts quite small balls and let them rest for half and hour to one hour and then fry in hot oil that has been on medium heat for 15 minutes. Fry for a few minutes until folden and cover directly with caster sugar mixed with a bit of cinnamon.
For the challah braid it as you like, 3,4 or 6 braids, there is plenty of ways in the youtube, even like a charachole. Let it rest one hour and then mix a little of milk with an egg and a pinch of salt, brush your challah all over with that mixture and put sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top. Make the buns as big or small you like them to be and let them rest 1 hour. Remember to preheat the oven in 220 degrees. Hope you will enjoy it.
Tips: Challah can be sometimes a tricky bread, all depends on the temperature or humedity of the day. Be
patient when knealling, kneal little by little and let it rest for a few minues, two, three times if necessary, clean your hands and go back to it and kneal it a bit more until the dough is not that sticky. Dont feel tempted to put more and more flour becuase the process will be endles and that is becuase you need to fie time for the gluten to activate and if you keep adding more flour you will just make it stickyer. Ony put flour at the very end to let the dough rest or when the dough feels far to wet.