Furthermore, like a lot of other people, I wanted wholewheat challahs with an airy texture. So getting that wholewheat pastry flour (70-80% wholewheat flour), then doing all the tips and tricks of more than one rising time and rolling out then rolling up each strand before braiding it (for an airier dough) and so on.
And whether for wholewheat or white, other challah-makers gave recommendations like kneading in big upward swoops for an airier dough, kneading on your knees on the floor, kneading by hand for 20 minutes, and so on.
These are all good ideas, by the way.
But I often felt too overwhelmed to make challah on a regular basis.
Then a healthy-food friend of mine (who kneads on her knees and who makes a delicious moist wholewheat peach cake for Shabbat) revealed that she prepared white-flour challahs.
In response to the shocked look on my face, she smiled and said simply, "That's the tradition. Jews always tried to eat white-flour challahs for Shabbat."
And it's true. While nowadays wholewheat flour is more expensive, that's a recent reversal.
So that broke through my "I must make wholewheat challahs - and somehow get them as airy and yummy as white-flour challahs!" mindblock.
Then one of my family members bought self-rising white flour (kemach shemarim) when there was no other flour (that didn't need sifting) available.
I'd never used self-rising flour, but there was a recipe for challahs on its shiny plastic sack, so I decided to give it a shot - with the amount of sugar exchanged for honey and decreased for Sefardi halachic requirements. (If bread is too sweet, it automatically becomes mizonot rather than hamotzi for Sefardim.)
My family loves this challah.
It makes delicious, nice-colored challahs. It smells really good. I'm still not so great at braiding it, but oh well. Even making an array of balls in a circle or loaf pan (so you get that "bumpy" challah with automatic buns, if you know what I mean) is a challenge because it's hard to get the balls all the same size.
But for me, taste, texture, and smell are the main priorities.
Also, using this flour and recipe makes the whole process so much easier, faster, and worry-free. (Meaning, no more consternation that something's up with the yeast & the dough doesn't rise properly, using too little or too much yeast, "oops just ran out of yeast!", etc.)
So now I've got my little shiny orange sack of Osem's kemach shemarim every week (and I keep another sack of the same to add another cup to it so I'll have the minimal amount for making the challah-tithing blessing).
And by using this kind of short-cut, I can make challahs most weeks, say the bracha, daven for people, and so on.
And I'm happy doing this.
Also, one of my sons stops in to pick up a couple of rolls set aside just for him before going back to yeshivah (which forces me to get an early start on the challahs which is a good thing for a discipline-resistant person like myself), and doing this for him makes me feel like a deliciously old-fashioned & dedicated Yiddishe mama throwback to the shtetlach of yore.
I mean, it makes me feel like that for a few minutes, anyway.
But if life shifts (and it always does), I'll give making challahs the old-fashioned way or wholewheat challahs a try again.
But right now, I just can't do the whole yeasting-kneading-rolling thing at this point in my life.
And that's fine!
And if life shifts another way (as it always does) so that I can't make challahs at all and we need to go back to store-bought, then that's also fine!
It's like what we were talking about in a previous post (How to Do Chessed Right? Play Your Strengths!):
You do whatever mitzvot you can in whatever way you can.
And if you can't, so you can't.
(Hashem is the reason you can or can't, so no need for self-flagellation or other forms of self-recrimination - and no need for nose-in-the-air pridefulness either...just pleasure & joy!)
This is along the lines of Leah's comment in the above-mentioned previous post: You want to aim for fulfilling mitzvot according to halacha & the enjoyment of all concerned (including yourself).
And you don't worry if you're doing something in the "socially mandated" or "right" way, you just aim for doing it in the halachic way.
And there you go.