Pascale's Kitchen: Halla heaven

Garlic rolls with parsley and rosemary (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Garlic rolls with parsley and rosemary
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
In my family, halla plays an incredibly important role.
When I place my hallot on the silver tray on the Shabbat table and cover them with the embroidered halla cover, the yeasty aroma wafts throughout the house, and the whole family feels the entrance of the Sabbath Queen.
In Jewish tradition, preparing halla for Shabbat is considered to have almost mystical qualities, and you’ll find as many different ways to braid halla as there are Jewish families. Some people use three strands, whereas others use four or even six. There are double-decker hallot, which you can learn how to braid in halla-braiding workshops.
Although it might seem otherwise, it’s actually quite simple to prepare halla dough. You can knead it by hand, or use an electric mixer with a dough hook, like I do. It’s imperative, though, that you let the hallot rise twice before putting them into the oven to bake.
The ingredients you need are staples that are normally found in every kitchen: flour, water, oil, salt and raising agents.
When you mix these ingredients together in the correct proportion and add savory or sweet toppings, you come out with the most delicious results. In addition, you can use a variety of flours, such as spelt or whole wheat.
The intoxicating aroma that wafts through your home will have your family members begging you to prepare halla every week.
I’ve included three basic halla recipes.
Once you’ve mastered them, I recommend playing around with the ingredients and coming up with new creations.
The first recipe is for a round halla topped with seeds. It is light and fluffy, perfect for mopping up sauce left on your plate from your Shabbat fish or meat dishes.
The second recipe is for garlic rolls covered with parsley and rosemary, which ideally should be baked in a round dish so that the rolls are touching one another.
The third recipe is for sweet halla.
You can play around with the amount of sugar you use, or even delete it from the list of ingredients, if you’re counting calories. If you sprinkle the sesame and nigella seeds on top, you’ll discover an incredible flavor that will definitely enhance your Shabbat table.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Garlic rolls with parsley and rosemary
(Use a 24-cm.-diameter pan)
■ 3 cups flour, sifted
■ 1 Tbsp. dry yeast
■ 1 Tbsp. sugar or honey
■ ¼ cup oil
■ 1 cup water, at room temperature
■ ½ tsp. salt
For wash:
■ 1 egg, beaten
■ 2 or 3 drops oil
For garlic and herb topping:
■ ½ cup quality olive oil
■ 6 stalks of parsley or 4 stalks of rosemary, chopped finely
■ 6 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
■ Salt and pepper to taste
In the bowl of an electric mixer, place flour, yeast, sugar and oil and mix with dough hook. Gradually add water. Mix for two minutes until well blended. Add the salt and mix for four more minutes.
Let dough rise in a warm place for 60 minutes until it doubles in volume. Cut the dough into 12-14 pieces and roll out each one into a 1.5-cm. strand and then twist it up like a snail.
Do the same with all the pieces.
Place all the snail rolls in a greased pan that’s lined with baking paper so that they’re touching one another. Place rolls in a warm spot and let them rise for 10 more minutes.
Bake at 180˚ for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry and clean. Remove and let cool on a metal rack.
Mix garlic topping ingredients together and then brush generously on top of rolls while they’re still hot. Pour remaining mixture on top. Serve at room temperature. It’s really fun for guests to pull apart rolls at the table.
Round halla
The following recipe calls for white flour, but you can certainly use whole-wheat flour instead, or a combination of two different flours. Just make sure that you add lots of extra water when baking with whole-wheat flour – even up to a full cup more. The white sugar can also be swapped with brown sugar.
Makes one halla
■ 1 kg. white flour, sifted
■ 45 ml. (3 Tbsp.) oil
■ 1 egg
■ 50 gr. margarine (or ½ cup canola oil)
■ 1 tsp. salt
■ 50 gr. fresh yeast
■ 80 gr. (4 Tbsp.) sugar or 2 Tbsp. honey and 2 Tbsp. silan (date syrup)
■ 480-600 ml. (2-2½ cups) water
For wash:
■ 1 egg, beaten
For decoration:
■ ½ cup nut and dried fruit mix
Pour flour into bowl of mixer and form a well in the middle, into which add oil, egg, margarine and salt. Sprinkle yeast and sugar on top.
Mix with a dough hook on medium speed. Add water gradually and while mixing at high speed. Mix until soft and dough falls away from side of bowl. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place bowl in a warm place and let dough rise for 90 minutes, or until it doubles in volume.
Punch down the dough to get rid of the air pockets. Split the dough into two and roll out each piece into a long roll. Twist each one up like a screw and seal ends together to form a ring. Place rings on a greased pan and let rise for 20 more minutes.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with nuts. Let hallot rise another 10 minutes. Bake at 180˚ for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.
Sweet halla rolls
I love baking fresh bread or rolls for holiday meals. It fills the house with an amazing aroma and makes the meal feel so much more festive.
Makes 24 to 28 rolls
■ 1 kg. flour, sifted
■ 50 gr. fresh yeast
■ ½ cup sugar
■ ½ cup oil
■ 1 Tbsp. silan (date syrup)
■ 2 Tbsp. margarine
■ 1 tsp. salt
■ 1 egg
■ 2½-3 cups water, at room temperature
For wash:
■ 1 egg, beaten
For topping:
■ ½ cup sesame seeds
■ ¼ cup nigella seeds
■ 1 tsp. dried herbs (optional)
In a bowl, add flour, yeast, sugar, oil, silan, margarine, salt and egg. Add the water gradually while kneading dough. Knead until mixed well. Let dough rise in a warm place.
Split dough into 24 to 28 sections and form a ball from each one. (If you choose to form different shapes, you will probably end up with a different number of rolls.) Place the balls on a greased pan. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds. Bake at 200˚ for 25 minutes.