The Shabbos after Pesach has a traditional special challah – the Shlissel Challah – “key in the challah”.
What is Shlissel Challah?
“Shlissel or Key Challah, makes the first challah after Pesach even more special. This is a well observed custom you might want to try for yourself. You can do this by slipping a key directly in the challah, by baking it in the dough or placing it in the braids as you shape. Many even shape their challah to look like a key. Shlissel Challah is a segula, good omen, for parnassa, or livelihood. It’s a very interesting custom with many sources and traditions.” source: The Kosher Channel.com.
Here’s the recipe:
5 cups warm water
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons yeast
5 pounds flour
1 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons Kosher salt (3 tablespoons in Israel)
1 egg, beaten
1. SUGAR: May I see the sweetness of others’ souls and love them as they are. May I also see the sweetness of my own soul and please help me to be generous with sweet words and kind acts.
Pour 1 overflowing cup sugar or honey into a very large bowl
2. WARM WATER: Water is compared to Torah. We ask that our home be a warm environment, conducive for understanding each other and the beauty of our Torah.
Pour 4 1/2 CUPS warm water into a very large mixing bowl.
3. YEAST fills the mixture with energy and fuels its growth. May we be filled with vitality to grow and reveal the potential within us.
Sprinkle 4 TABLESPOONS yeast over the water and stir once.
Allow to stand about 5 minutes until bubbly and frothy.
4. FLOUR gives the bread its substance and definition. (white bread, spelt bread, whole wheat, i.e.) May our days be filled with substance and meaning. May Torah and mitzvos define our lives.
Add 5 Pounds (2 kilo) flour to the bowl.
5. OIL was used to anoint the king of the Jewish people. It connotes nobility and honor. As you pour, say the name of each family member and think of their noble qualities.
Slowly add one cup of oil
As you pour, whisper the names of your loved ones – If you know their Hebrew names you should use that.
6. SALT slows down the fermentation of the yeast. Without it, the yeast over-inflates, runs out of food and then collapses. In Judaism we relate yeast to the ego which we try to keep in check. May we be aware of our own self-centeredness. Please help us to express our individual gifts in proper measure.
Measure 3 TABLESPOONS salt into the bowl
7. Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. In the bowl or on a clean flat surface knead the dough about 5 minutes until smooth. Add a bit of oil if the dough is dry and flour if it is too wet.
Physically, kneading refines and develops the dough’s texture. On a deeper level, WE are ACTUALLY bringing together the physical the spiritual. Flour is like the material world——water is Torah. This is a very opportune time to pray.
Kneading is an effort, it sure gives our arms a workout!
With each push and pull we will think of those whom our arms arms long to hold and hug . May all who taste this bread come closer to you, G-d, and may our efforts today result in revealed good.
8. Oil the sides of the bowl, roll the dough in the oiled bowl until it is completely coated. Cover with plastic wrap. Place covered bowl in a draft free place, a closed oven is good, to rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.
Our neshama, like the dough, flourishes in a place of warmth and stillness. Just as the bowl is covered, our growth is not always visible. Oiling the bowl reduces friction and helps the dough to rise. May we help our loved ones by giving them warmth and understanding.
9. When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover, punch gently in the center with your fist, the dough will deflate. Now is the time to take challah.
The act of taking challah is a very deep concept that says: we accept that the source of our sustenance and strength is from none other than the King and Creator of the Universe, our own giving, loving Father.
Whether you use the ingredients in this water challah recipe, bake from one of your own or patronize your local bakery, we recognize that everything we have is from the open, loving, merciful hand of Hashem.
10. Shape dough into eight loaves. You can also make other breads with the water challah recipe. Place shaped breads on a baking pan lined with parchment paper or in pans coated with baking spray. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 30 minutes to one hour, until almost doubled. After rising, brush with beaten egg and bake 25-35 minutes until golden. After a few minutes, remove the delicious smelling loaves from their pans to cool on a wire rack.
Watch the instructional video here: