A full cup symbolizes a wealth of joy and blessings, and an overflowing cup is one that can’t contain all the goodness life has to offer. Though I typically fill the kiddush cup on Friday night more than half full in a nod to the tradition of saying kiddush over a full cup, this week, I filled it and let the grape juice run down the sides. With the overwhelming generosity we’ve experienced recently, nothing else seemed appropriate. Truly, our blessings are overflowing.
Since last Monday, different friends have showed up every night with dinner for us, and even during my best and most ambitious of cooking frenzies, our fridge has never looked like this. And as much as I love cooking, there’s no way I could muster the energy and organization to do any of it right now, and certainly not at the level of what people are bringing us. Friday afternoon, separate people brought us groceries, dinner, challah, and grape juice. I’m just going to keep saying it: overwhelming generosity.
A little googling this morning informed me that the tradition is actually to say kiddush over a full cup, and havdalah over an overflowing cup, but traditions are there to be borrowed and reappropriated (at least this week), and I’m glad our cup ran over.
One of the things that showed up on Friday was 4 loaves of challah, some of the best I’ve had, so here’s the recipe:
Billie Stevens’s Breadmaker Challah, from Lynne LeWitt (made into a non-bread machine recipe by Mattea)
¾ cup hot water
3 tablespoons sugar, divided (1 tablespoon and 2 tablespoons)
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 large eggs
¼ cup canola oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 cups (plus) all-purpose or bread flour – more in summer, less in winter, probably
up to 3 ½ cups now – if you use 1 cup of whole wheat and 2 cups of white, you
will need extra
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds if desired
1. In a small bowl, proof the yeast. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in the hot water, then add the yeast and let it sit for ten minutes. Bubbles should form (this tells you that the yeast is alive and working).
2. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add the canola oil. Add the rest of the
sugar (2 tablespoons) and the salt to the egg/oil mixture.
3. Add the yeast, water, and sugar mixture to the liquids.
4. Gradually add the flour.
5. When the dough holds together, knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
6. Clean the bowl and grease it, then return the dough to the bowl. Cover with either a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place for an hour.
7. Punch the dough down, then cover and allow it to rest for another half hour.
8. Divide the dough into two loaves (or leave it as one large loaf), and then braid the dough. You can use a standard 3-strand braid, or read on for instructions on doing a 6-stranded braid. Put the loaves on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
a. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough
(enough for one loaf) and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each
ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide. Place the 6 in
a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together.
b. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand
from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and
move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left.
Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are
braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist
into a circle, pinching ends together.
9. Make the egg wash and brush it over the loaves. Allow them to rest 30-60 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350°F about 20 minutes before baking.
10. Brush more egg wash over the loaves. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds if
11. Bake 25-30 minutes in the center of the oven until golden brown. Cool on cookie sheets.