TableSide with Mandylicious Challah

Mandy Silverman grew up in St. Louis, went to college in Ann Arbor (Go Blue!), and started Mandylicious nearly 6 years ago in Sharon, MA. Her one-of-a-kind challah and babka inventions are stuffed or topped with fillings and flavors you never imagined. She loves sharing her recipes as well as offering tips, advice, and motivation to encourage and support others who want to make their own challah — so we sat down with her to get the scoop. Plus, scroll down to get [b]ready to find your new favorite challah recipe.

Why challah?

My mother is an amazing challah baker; her challahs remain the best I have ever had. Despite the fact that I grew up around challah, I never learned how to bake my own. It seemed like an insurmountable task, yet after I moved out I could never bear to buy store bought, so I had to try! And believe me, it was definitely a steep learning curve to get something that even resembled a challah. And braiding them? Forget it. My husband actually did all the braiding for the first 5 years of our marriage. And in all that time I constantly compared myself to my mother, KNOWING that what I was producing was nowhere near the glorious golden braids she would put on the table every Friday night. It stinks to put all that effort into something and not feel proud because you think something HAS to be one way or another. When I finally got to a point where I felt confident in my ability to “challah” it was nothing short of a miracle. If you would have told me that years later, I would get to a point where I am able to offer support in something challah related, I would not have believed you.
But perhaps it was meant to be. Baking challah is something that is important to so many people, yet so many people do not feel comfortable doing it. I get it. I lived it. And if I am able to help one person feel proud about what they have accomplished, give one person a manageable recipe, convince one person that their challah might not look like the one in the picture but it is still THEIRS and it’s awesome? Then all those years of crazy challah stress suddenly becomes worth it. So how could it NOT be challah. VINDICATION BABY!!!!

Where did you get your start?

Actually, while trying to figure out someone’s “top secret” recipe for honey stuffed challah. After many failed iterations I started looking for things I COULD stuff, instead of working with something I could not. Turns out, you can stuff chocolate chips, or caramelized onions, or cookie dough, or salami, or pulled brisket in a challah and it’s way better than silly honey. Once I realized how versatile and fun challah could be, I started making my friends challah for their birthdays with their favorite foods in mind.  Rebecca likes Indian food? Ta da: Challoo Naan! Danny likes buffalo chicken? Ta da: Buffalo Chicken Challah! It got to the point where my friends wanted special challahs even when it was not their birthday, and with their encouragement I realized that what I was doing was unique and that there was actually a market for crazy challahs! (PS-I did eventually figure out how to do the honey stuffed challah!)

What inspires you? 

This is going to sound completely trite and ridiculous, but it is true. Pinky promise. Other people’s happiness. When I know what someone’s favorite food, or favorite dessert, or favorite color is and I am able to incorporate that somehow into a challah, it is the coolest. That’s where it started and that is where it continues. The taste buds of the people around me make all the flavor idea light bulbs go off. This month we can thank Debbie’s taste buds for liking Green Goddess salad dressing and inspiring me to want to make a challah with those flavors. Thanks Debbie’s buds!

Favorite Shabbat memory?

That’s a hard one! I feel so lucky that so many of my Shabbats involve making wonderful memories with friends and family. Even that one Shabbat I managed to take a 3.5 hour nap was a great day. But I guess the one that sticks the most in my memory is the first Shabbat at home after my daughter was born. I remember looking at her during Kiddush. During benching. During the lack of Shabbat nap. During Havdalah and thinking: “This is it. This is my life now.” Everything changed. All the other days she was home before that moment sort of blurred, but Shabbat was a day that had always held so much ritual and meaning. It had always been one way, and now it would always be another. We gave her her blessing for the first time. Everything was her first time and everything was our first time. It was a feeling of love and responsibility and sheer terror that I had never felt before or since. I became a whole new person. Now she is almost 14 and I still remember every minute of that day, and now that I am more well rested and less cranky, I can definitely say it was one of the best Shabbats I have ever had.

Favorite stuffed challah you’ve ever made?

The 6 stranded rainbow stuffed! Everyone asks if you can stuff a challah with rainbow sprinkles. The answer is no, because all the colors melt together and instead of the rainbow effect you are hoping for you end up with a brown globby mess (learned that the hard way). But everybody wants to cut a challah and have all the colors of the rainbow spill out.

Right before the torah portion about Noah and the rainbow, everyone talks about making rainbow challahs. Those requires a TON of food coloring being kneaded into individual strands to get the color you want, and once you bake it, the top becomes brown and you lose a lot of the sexy challah factor. So I was trying to think of ways to incorporate the rainbow inside the braids and when this idea occurred to me I had to try it instantly. In a challah miracle I happened to have all 6 colors of sprinkles on hand, and I watched 15 different youtube videos on how to do a 6-strand challah, and then it took me another hour to roll out and fill and braid and after all that I still had no clue if it would work. So when I sliced into it and not only did it work, IT WAS THE COOLEST THING EVER, I knew that challah had stolen my heart forever. Who can’t love a challah that plays hard to get?

Jewish food you can’t live without?

Challah. Duh.

Favorite Boston restaurant? 

There are not really so many kosher restaurants around here, but it doesn’t matter because the answer to that is the same as the answer to when people ask me what my favorite food is. Any food I don’t have to make myself, any place where I don’t have to do the cooking automatically becomes my favorite. I love anywhere that someone else plays chef. I could hate the meal and still walk away elated because I don’t have to do the dishes.

To see and learn more about her delicious creations, go to www.mandyliciouschallah.com or follow her @Mandyliciouschallah on Instagram or Facebook.

COOKIE DOUGHLICIOUS STUFFED CHALLAH

(yields 2 loaves)

Ingredients for the challah dough:

  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 4¼ cup bread flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon instant bread machine yeast

Ingredients for the cookie dough:

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon water
  1. Prepare the cookie dough filling: 
    1. Using a mixer, cream together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter.
    2. Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
    3. Add in the flour, vanilla, and salt until just combined.
    4. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
    5. Roll the cookie dough into 1 ½ Tablespoon size balls.
    6. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze at least 2 hours. Leave in the freezer until ready to use.
  2. Make the challah dough: Add dry and wet ingredients to a bread machine in the order specified by the manufacturer. Set machine for “dough” cycle. (If not using a bread machine, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, turn out onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes. Allow to rise in a large bowl in a dark place, covered with plastic wrap or a towel for 1 ½ hours.)
  3. When the dough cycle is complete, remove dough from the bread machine and divide into 6 equal portions.
  4. On a floured surface, roll three portions into long ropes, and using a rolling pin, roll each portion into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long and 8 inches wide.
  5. Remove frozen cookie dough balls from the freezer and place 4-6 balls per rectangle. 
  6. From the long edge of the dough, gently bring both sides of the dough over the cookie dough balls and pinch together. Repeat for all 3 rectangles.
  7. Carefully braid each of the rolls together, then place on a greased loaf pan or lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
  8. Cover with a towel and let rise for 30-60 minutes in a draft-free place.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  10. Beat egg yolk and mix in water to prepare the egg wash. Brush over each challah.
  11. Bake challahs for approximately 40-50 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Remove from pans and allow to cool on a wire rack.

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