Not your everyday challah recipe
Leftovers from the Sabbath meal baked into a special challah make a colorful mosaic.
Shabbat begins early now. At 4:30 P.M. the sun sets, and a damp chill penetrates the house in the Jerusalem hills. “Shalom aleikhem malachei hashalom” (Peace be unto you, angels of peace) we sing, “Boakhem leshalom” (Come in peace). On the kitchen stove rest heavy pots containing the fish and the soup, the meat and the dumplings, the stuffed vegetables and the potatoes. We have added leaves to the modest dining room table, and the lit candles cast gold shadows across the clean white tablecloth.
There is room for everyone. The first foods to reach the table are small plates of olives and pickled vegetables, followed by pale tahini and tahini with tomatoes, spinach leaves with lemon and dried okra, hot eggplant cooked with tomatoes and peppers, and eggplant seared in its peel with olive oil. Then comes a salad of fresh tomatoes with garlic and scallions and a salad of grated radishes with leek and parsley.
Where there is room left on the table, plates of chopped liver with goose fat and a salad of hard-boiled eggs with fried onions and slices of potato are set down.
So there won’t be anything lacking for Shabbat, there is also a squash salad with eggs and lemon, cucumbers with scallions and za’atar, another eggplant dish with ground meat and seared hot peppers, a wide plate with basil leaves, rashad and hyssop chopped with pine nuts and pistachios, a plate of lubia cooked with garlic, a salad of lentils with celery, coriander and lemon peels, and maybe another plate of tahini with pumpkin and a bean spread with garlic and hot cooked carrots and sweet slices of beets and a few pieces of herring with onion and a piece of smoked tuna - and that’s it. Enough.
Unless there’s some room left, and then you can also set out a few cold slices of meat pickled in arak and cooked olives in cumin and paprika and dried spleen in a skillet with leek and sumac seeds and hot chick peas with lots of tahini - only in honor of Shabbat, and that’s really it.
On Shabbat morning, we prepare special challahs that create a kind of World to Come.
We conceal all the leftovers of last night’s Shabbat meal in the delicate dough and allow them to rise together in the oven in time for breakfast. The chicken and vegetables, the tahini and the meat, eggs and liver, all join the baked mosaic that is beautiful enough to adorn the ceiling of an ancient synagogue.
The table is set, the guests are seated, the wine is poured and the challah is ready. Shabbat shalom.
Challah stuffed with liver and hard-boiled eggs
This bread arouses memories of my grandmother Rivka’s Shabbat meal. The chopped liver, the carrots from the chicken soup and the hard-boiled eggs from the cholent are the first things I tasted. When they’re wrapped in warm challah and brushed with butter, I have heretical thoughts that maybe there is a paradise after all. And if it really exists, Grandma Rivka is probably the cook. For two 30-cm. English cake pans.
For the dough:
1 tbsp. (15 gm.) salt
1 kg. sifted white flour (plus a bit more for processing the dough)
5 tbsp. (70 gm.) sugar
1 tbsp. (12 gm.) dry yeast
1/2 cup (120 gm.) olive oil
2 to 2 1/2 cups (480-600 ml.) warm water
1 egg for brushing the dough
sesame seeds to adorn the bread (optional)
For the stuffing:
4-6 medium carrots
4 tbsp. (60 ml.) olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 kg. fresh, cleaned chicken livers
1 cup (100 gm.) shelled walnuts
8 stalks scallion
Atlantic salt and ground black pepper
To prepare the dough:
Place a tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the mixer bowl and sift the flour over it. Scatter the sugar and yeast over the flour and pour one cup of warm water over everything. With a kneading hook begin to mix at low speed. Add the egg and the olive oil and continue to knead. Add another cup of water and let it be absorbed into the dough. Process for about five minutes until you get a soft, flexible dough. If necessary, add a little more water.
Form the dough into a ball, place in a wide plate covered with cling wrap or a damp towel, and transfer to a warm place where it can rise for about 45 minutes, until the dough doubles in volume. Start preparing the stuffing.
To prepare the stuffing:
Peel the carrots and steam for about 20 minutes in a covered pot, until they soften a little but remain crunchy. Set aside and let cool. Place the eggs in a pot with water to cover, bring to a boil and cook for about five minutes. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and then peel carefully.
Place a little olive oil in a skillet and heat. Slice the garlic cloves. When the skillet is very hot, place the garlic and the livers in it and fry until the livers are a grayish color with streaks of brown.
The inside of the livers should remain as pink as possible, since they will continue to bake inside the bread. Add the walnuts to the skillet, season with a little salt and ground black pepper and remove from the heat.
To bake the bread:
Line two 30-cm. English cake pans with baking paper. Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Punch down the risen dough with your hands and knead a little on a floured surface. Divide dough into two equal parts and then again into two parts. Place half the dough on the bottom of each pan and flatten with your fingers to cover the pan evenly.
In the center of the dough, along the length of the pan, arrange the carrots, halved hard-boiled eggs, livers and scallions. Flatten the second half of the dough with your hands and place atop the filling. To keep the filling inside, make sure that the layer of dough on the bottom touches the dough on top.
Press down with your hands to remove air.
Cover with a damp towel or cling wrap and set aside to rise for about another 20 minutes.
Spread each loaf with beaten egg and generously sprinkle on sesame seeds.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.
When the bread cools enough to hold, take it out of the pan and slice into very thick slices. Eat with your hands together with good tahini and a slice of ripe tomato.
In addition to the recipe, you can use your imagination and whatever you have in the way of ingredients for the filling. Prepare the dough on Shabbat morning and start collecting leftovers from the meal: pieces of roast chicken, what’s left of the roast, beans in sauce, baked potatoes, squash, eggplant, burgul salad, meat patties and whatever. Arrange them in a row as described above, add fresh vegetables such as tomato sections or scallions, which will add freshness.
Bake according to the recipe. Try not to put in ingredients that are too wet, so they won’t interfere with the rising.