Shlissel Challah with Bsisa
Said to be superstitious, both the North African bsisa and the Ashkenazi shlissel challah traditions are practiced around Passover. Both represent prayers for abundance and good fortune. Hoping for a double blessing, I combine both traditions: adding traditional bsisa ingredients (raisins, almonds, spices and sprinkles) to shlissel challah—even if it seems overly superstitious.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 packets (4½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
- ¾ cup warm water
- 1 large egg
- 1 yolk (reserve white for egg wash)
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins
- ¼ cup almonds, chopped
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, lightly toasted in a dry pan
- 2 tablespoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted in a dry pan
- 2 tablespoons cake sprinkles
- Egg Wash
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Sesame seeds (optional)
- Place flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer and mix to combine. Create a well in the center, add the yeast and mix it a bit with the flour mixture. Pour warm water in and let stand for 5 minutes to froth. Add egg, yolk, oil and honey and mix with dough hook on low for 8 minutes. Add raisins, almonds, spices and sprinkles and continue to mix the dough for 2 more minutes until it is smooth and elastic. The dough will be a bit sticky. Transfer it to an oiled bowl and turn over to coat. Cover and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it doubles in bulk.*
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Determine whether you would like to shape the entire loaf into a key-like shape, make a key out of dough to put on top of a braided loaf, or stamp the loaf with a key. Shape accordingly. Apply egg wash and let rise for 45 to 60 minutes in a warm, draft-free spot.** Reapply remaining egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using, place in oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Loaf is ready if it produces a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom with your fingers. If not ready, bake for 5 minutes more and check again. Cool on a rack before breaking.***
- *Dough may be prepared and put in the refrigerator over night for the first rise. Take out when ready to continue, gently deflate the dough and let stand to rise again and then proceed.
- **You can create a warm box by placing a cup of just-boiled water in a cold oven or microwave next to the dough-filled bowl or on the shelf underneath it.
- ***Loaves may be frozen. Make sure to wrap with aluminum foil and then with plastic wrap. When read to use, thaw on your countertop. Take the plastic wrap off and bake wrapped in aluminum foil on low heat—no more than 300 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. It will be like fresh. Unwrap and cool on a rack.