Philacatessen | Challah From Chef Jeremy Gross’ Mom


Chef Jeremy Gross of the acclaimed Olly Restaurant was featured in the Jewish Exponent’s Sept. 19 issue. During the interview, he extolled his mom’s cooking — particularly her brisket, which appears in the print edition, and her challah.

“My mom makes the best challah. It was a fixture at every Shabbat dinner and every holiday,” he said.

The well-worn recipe card she uses tells the story — like most frequently used cookbooks, it shows its battle scars.

The challah is a traditional version, although her method puts the yeast mixture in a well atop the tower of flour, which is a slight tweak. Mrs. Gross also calls for yeast cakes instead of envelopes of dry yeast, which are fresh and many bakers claim to be superior.

If you use dry yeast, a cake is equivalent to one envelope of dry yeast. Her recipe was offered in a wonderfully brief, staccato style shorthand. For ease of use, we have expanded it to clarify the instructions. Note: The warm water is listed as two separate ingredient items; it is added at different times in the process so this was done deliberately to avoid confusion.

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Makes 2 loaves

  • 8 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cakes yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1¾ cup warm water

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt, and form a well in the top. (Picture a volcano.)

In a measuring cup, mix the yeast cakes and 1 cup warm water; pour this into the well. Cover it with the flour mixture and let it bubble. Mix the yeast with the flour.

Add the eggs and an additional 1¾ cups warm water. Mix well and knead thoroughly with floured hands on a floured surface until smooth and doughy.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with a towel, in a warm place. Allow it to rise to double its size.

When doubled, punch down the dough, knead it again and allow it to rise again. Punch it down again, and divide it into two portions.

Divide each half into three equal portions, and roll these into long, thin strands. Braid the strands and place each loaf onto an oiled pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes until golden brown.


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