There are two things you need to know about me.
The first is that I graduated from college last month, which means I am very intensely unemployed.
The second is that I really enjoy baking and cooking, and am actually not terrible at it most of the time. However, the notion of baking bread, and I say this with absolute sincerity, rocks me to my core. I don’t know how to knead properly. The idea of letting dough rest for hours makes me want to tear my hair out. I’ve just never felt like I was cut out for the task.
But in my newfound unemployment, I’ve realized I’ve got nothing better to do with my time (besides watch my friends get cool job opportunities and lay down a lot) than bake. So without further ado, here is my recipe for how to make unemployment challah, adapted from this recipe by Joan Callaway. I want to stress that you should definitely follow Joan’s recipe if you want your challah to actually taste good, but what is unemployment if not bending rules to fit your current situation in order to make excuses for your behavior?
You will need:
- 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- ½ cup honey
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ tablespoons salt
- 8 cups all-purpose flour
1. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water. It will look like this. While you wait for the yeast to activate, think about how maybe if you majored in business (if you even had the brain for it), you might have a source of income right now and could smugly walk through Manhattan in a blazer, a real part of society, instead of sleeping on the futon in your dad’s living room and eating peanut butter straight from the jar.
2. Beat in the honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. It will look like this. Realize your ancestors went through pogroms, persecution, and adapting to a new country without speaking the national language for you to major in television.
3. Add in one cup of flour at a time, beating after each addition until that gets too difficult and you have to pretend you know how to knead with your hands. If it looks too dry (like the picture below), just add some water and everyone will be none the wiser. Isn’t it amazing how all of your friends from camp are doing super impressive things and you’re just waiting for the email that will change your life?
4. Once the dough is kneaded until smooth (add a little flour if the dough is still too sticky to work with), rest it in a bowl coated with vegetable oil and cover with a kitchen towel for 1 ½ hours or until it doubles in size. Once it is proofed (is that correct? I watch The Great British Bake Off so I am pretty sure I know what I’m talking about), it will look something like this. You have never made challah before, which is very clear. Why aren’t you sending in resumes right now?
5. Punch down the risen dough and scoop it out onto a floured board. Cut the ball of dough into thirds and, because you don’t have a rolling pin and certainly not a paycheck to pay for one, just sort of stretch out each piece into long, sort of phallic, and uneven snakes. You’re doing great! It doesn’t matter that you’re having a crisis of faith after seeing lots of people you know post Facebook statuses that start with, “I am pleased to announce that,” and “I am so thrilled to finally be able to say,” even though you know that life is not all about work, and it shouldn’t be, and you shouldn’t rush the process of living because there is so, so much to life, but also you need money and some direction right now. Are your dough snakes looking properly inappropriate yet? Great!
6. Try your best to braid them. Definitely don’t look at a video tutorial on how to braid challah because you think you know how to –– it’s just like braiding hair, right?? Wrong! Oh, so very wrong, like your expectations that you’d graduate with an offer to be a staff writer on SNL.
7. Grease a pan that is too small for your challah braid which will force you to turn it into a challah loaf that looks more like a stomach than something your friends and family will want to eat. Cover with a towel and let it rise for another hour. What? Another rise? Yes. Your ancestors didn’t have a lot to do on Fridays (except for getting persecuted, probably). Yet you get frustrated when the WiFi router goes down. Amazing!
8. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and beat the remaining egg and brush it over your monstrous challah loaf. How do you do taxes and also how do you get an apartment? These are all really good questions to Google while waiting for the oven to finish preheating.
9. Put that chonky baby in the oven for 40 minutes flat. Write a cover letter in the meantime. Or don’t! Sometimes it feels like nothing matters.
10. It’s done! Your challah loaf is done! You did it! You put a lot of work into this. Sure, it looks sort of insane, is more of a dry heaping mass than something soft and delicious, and once it cools you’ll find it doesn’t really have a specific flavor and tastes more like the inside of a down comforter than bread, but you tried, which is more than you can say for the past two weeks. Be proud. You can’t really serve it to anybody, but still. You went and did it.
But seriously I desperately need a job this is not a joke if you know of anything please let me know I can’t go through this process again and risk my ancestors sending a Belarusian shtetl curse unto my house and my family.
Header image via Getty