Whole Wheat Challah

For the last several months, I’ve enjoyed making challah bread as part of our meal to welcome in the Sabbath.  After we bless our heavenly Father who alone brings forth bread from the earth, we pass the loaf around, each breaking off a piece and remembering that He provides for all of our needs.  This includes our most pressing need of a Savior.  Yeshua is our ultimate bread of life (John 6:48).

Unfortunately, I can’t find any pictures of the challah I’ve made, but I did find something that looks close:

This is a simple, easy recipe that I tried out early on and have stuck with because of its success. My version is closely based on the challah recipe in the book A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays.

Two Loaves

The following recipe will make a double-decker loaf that will feed 8-10 people.

The fact that there are two loaves reminds us that when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, the Father provided a double portion of manna on the sixth day so that his children would be able to enjoy rest on the Sabbath day (Exodus 16).

If you have a small family, and don’t want leftovers, you may want to halve the recipe.

The Recipe

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 packages of Rapid Rise yeast (or 1 1/2 Tbsp instant-active bulk yeast)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 2/3 cups very warm water (120 degrees to be exact.  If the water is too hot, the bread won’t rise.  If its too cool, it will take longer to rise.)
  • 1/4 cup oil (I like to use grapeseed oil – its healthy and neutral in flavor)
  • 1/4 cup honey

Here’s how to make it:

1) Put half the flour (1 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups white), all the yeast and salt in a bowl.  Mix.

2) Add the water, oil, and honey.  Mix.

3) Add the other half of the flour (1 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups white).  Mix well. The dough should feel soft like new play dough and should pull away from the sides of the bowl and stick to itself.  If it seems like you need a bit of extra flour, only add 1/4 cup at a time.  If you add too  much flour, the dough will be too hard, like clay, and will not rise as well.

4) Rest the dough for 10 minutes. During this rest, the dough will rise some.

5) At this point, you can pinch off a bit of dough to be given to the Lord as a contribution as our ancestors were commanded to do when they came into the Promised Land (Numbers 15:17-21).  Challah actually refers to the portion of the bread that was donated in Temple times to the priests. Even though we’re not in the land and don’t have the Levitical priesthood in tact, I think its a neat way to remember that the first of all we have is to be given back to our heavenly Father in gratitude for His provision.  You can either take an olive-sized piece and burn or discard it, OR you could take a larger portion and make a separate loaf to give to someone else as a gift.

6) Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle some flour on top and knead for several minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

7) Break off about one third of the dough.  (I like to use a wide spatula or dough cutter – like the one to the right – to do this.)  This will be the dough for the top braid.  Separate this ball into three equal parts and roll into approximately 8″ or 9″ ropes.  Don’t worry if the ropes are longer or shorter.  Longer ropes will make for a longer loaf, and the opposite will be true of shorter ropes.  Once you have the ropes made, braid them.

8) Now take the larger portion of dough, which will be for the bottom braid, and separate it into three equal parts.  Roll into approximately 14″ or 15″ ropes and braid.

9) Place the larger braid on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.  Lay the shorter braid on top of the larger one.

10) Allow to rise until double in size.  This will take 45 minute to an hour away from a draft.  I like to stick my loaf in the oven just so its out of the way.  Please  note that the oven should not be on if you decide to stick it there.

11) Once your dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 325 degrees, making sure to remove the loaf before the preheating process begins if you’ve allowed your loaf to rise there.

12) While the oven is preheating, you can brush one beaten egg white onto your loaf to add shine and color.

13) Bake on the middle rack for 45 to 55 minutes until nicely brown.

I like to try to time it so that the bread is coming out of the oven close to the time we are ready to eat it.  Warm challah is an incredible way to bring in Shabbat!

The Covering

While the bread is waiting on the table, it is traditionally covered.  Some people have a special challah covering while others (like myself) use a cloth napkin.  The covering symbolizes the dew that covered the ground.  When the dew had gone up, the manna was revealed (Exodus 16:13-15).  In the same way, when the cover is removed, the challah is revealed.

The Blessing

Here is the blessing typically recited before receiving the gift of bread.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe
Who brings forth bread from the earth.

It’s been a part of the tradition of God’s people for a very long time.  Though it’s not a blessing specifically commanded in scripture, it does have its origins in scripture.  Psalm 104:14 says:

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth.

In the following graphic from Hebrew4Christians.com,  you can see the Hebrew, how to pronounce the Hebrew, and the English.  (Note that Hebrew is read from right to left.)  To hear a recording of what the Hebrew actually sounds like, you can press the audio icon next to the blessing on this page.

Happy Challah-making!!!


African Meat Curry

As I mentioned in this post, we’ve been studying countries and cultures.  In conjunction with our study of Kenya, we made a dinner from the book, Cooking the African Way.

Though I didn’t have everything in the precise form the recipe requested, it still turned out great. In fact, my dad said we should bottle and sell the sauce.  I wouldn’t go quite that far, but we definitely saved the leftover sauce for later use.

In a large frying pan, heat for 1 minute:

  • 1/2 cup  vegetable oil

Add and stir:

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece ginger root, cut in half
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed (I used ground cumin)
  • 4 whole cardamom seeds (I didn’t have this, so I skipped it)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I used a teaspoon or so of ground cinnamon)
  • 4 whole cloves (I used a few dashes of ground cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Stir in and cook about 10 minutes:

  • 6 oz tomato paste


  • 4-6 pieces chicken (I used both drumsticks and boneless breasts)

Reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 35 minutes.


  • 2 medium white potatoes, peeled and quartered

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender.


  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander (I didn’t have this, so I skipped it)

Simmer uncovered 10 minutes more.

I served the curried chicken and potatoes with steamed broccoli and sauteed asparagus.

Norweigan Fare

As I mentioned in this post, we’ve been studying countries and cultures.  In conjunction with our study of Norway, we made recipes from the book Cooking the Norwegian Way.

For lunch, we made open-face sandwhiches and potato soup.  For dinner, we made meatcakes, boiled potatoes and peas.  Then for dessert, we made a whipped cream cake.  (If we would have had a waffle iron, we would have had waffles for breakfast. But I read that porridge is common, so our oatmeal breakfast was at least slightly representative of what we might have eaten over there.)

After our day of consuming some typical Norwegian foods, we decided we’d love to visit Norway someday! 🙂

Open-Face Sandwiches

Start with:

  • Thickly sliced bread or rye crisp crackers

Top with any of the following:

  • softened butter or mayonnaise
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • cucumber, thinly sliced
  • lemon, thinly sliced
  • hard-cooked eggs, thinly sliced
  • green pepper, cut into narrow strips
  • scrambled eggs
  • meat (authentically, it would have been sardines, shrimp, or ham, but we substituted turkey)
  • hard cheese, such as Jarlsbery or Swiss

Potato Soup

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, put:

  • 4 medium-sized potatoes,  peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped well
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • enough filtered water to cover vegetables

Boil until a fork goes into the potatoes easily, about 15-20 minutes.  Do not drain.  Mash contents in the pan.  Slowly add:

  • 2 cups milk (I used 1 cup kefir and 1 cup filtered water)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Simmer ingredients over medium heat until soup is smooth and hot.


In mixing bowl, combine:

  • 1 lb lean or extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 2 1/2 tbsp potato flour or cornstarch (I used 1 tbsp arrowroot powder with good success)

Gradually add:

  • 3/4 cup milk or water

Shape into round patties.  Fry them in a little butter or oil.  When patties are browned, add:

  • 1 to 2 cups water, beef broth, or milk (I used beef broth)

Lower heat and simmer patties until done, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from pan with slotted spoon.  To make a gravy for the meatcakes, blend together:

  • 1 to 2 tbsp flour (I used 1 tbsp arrowroot powder again)
  • a little cold water

Add to the water or broth used to cook the meatcakes. Stir until thickened, adding more flour if necessary.  Season to taste with:

  • salt
  • pepper
  • onion, finely chopped

Boiled Potatoes

In a pan, place:

  • 6 medium-sized potatoes or a greater number or small, new potatoes
  • 1 tsp salt

Add enough cold water to just cover the potatoes. Cover the pan and place over high heat.  Allow potatoes to boil until tender, about 15 or 20 minutes.  When a fork goes into potatoes easily, drain off water. Put the lid back on the pan and retun to the stove to keep warm.  (Make sure that the burner under the pan is off.) Add butter and parsley before seving.

Whipped Cream Cake

They say this layer cake is the most popular cake in Norway.  Though I used a completely different cake recipe and omitted the fruit juice, I layered the cake with whipped cream and berries as is customary there.  We couldn’t find the camera to take a picture before we devoured it.  Maybe next time! 

Bake this White Bean Vanilla Cake in two 9″ pans.

While it’s baking, prepare the filling.  Whip:

  • 1 to 2 cups heavy whipping cream


  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar (I used agave nectar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Once cakes are cooled, sprinkle a little fruit juice over the bottom layer of the cake. (This was the step I omitted.  They recommended using juice from the same kind of fruit in the cake.  I didn’t have strawberry juice and didn’t have enough strawberries to spare to mash some up to get juice.  They did say that the layers can be altered by using any kinds of berries or jams desired, so I figured I was still within authentic limits to omit the juice. The cake was still scrumptious without it.)

Then spread a layer of whipped cream over the bottom layer.  Cover with a generous layer of fruit.  Place the second layer on top.  Repeat the juice, whipped cream and fruit steps.  Serve immediately, or refridgerate up to 2 hours, then serve.

Exploring Countries and Cultures Culinarily

We are thankful to be enjoying our second year of homeschooling.  I particularly love the curriculum we are using this year, Exploring Countries and Cultures. So far, we’ve “traveled” through North and South America, “visiting” Canada, Mexico, and Brazil along the way.  Presently, we’re “in” Norway.

As we explore different countries, we learn about their physical land and the animals that live there, study their flag, listen to their music, and do occasional related art projects. (To be honest, I’m terrible about getting art projects going.  We often skip them. . .) We read novels that take place in the country we’re “in.” For example, we read Anne of Green Gables when we were in Canada, and we are presently reading Heidi while we’re near Switzerland.  We also read stories about the country’s history, cultures, and missionaries. (The reading is my favorite part – I’ve already paused the rest of the curriculum several times so that we could enjoy extra books).

As if that’s not fun enough, we also make and eat the country’s foods as authentically as we can.

Though I didn’t make note of the recipes we’ve done so far, I figured it would be good to keep track of them going forward so that we could enjoy them when we go through this material again in four years.  Below I’ll compile links to the recipes we enjoy, starting with the fare we most recently enjoyed from Norway.

Norweigan Fare

African Meat Curry