Growing up we always had a loaf of challah in our home – we loved it! However, we never made it ourselves, it was store bought. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I made my first and only loaf, that is until this past weekend.
The first time I made challah I remember thinking how incredible the house smelled. The aroma of fresh baked bread was simply heavenly. The bread was like nothing I’d ever tasted before, even though we always had a loaf in the house.
I wish I had saved that recipe. For the life of me I have no clue where that recipe went, but remember how amazing it tasted.
What is Challah? Challah is a Jewish braided bread made with yeast and eggs, and traditionally eaten during the Sabbath. It is surrounded by folklore and tradition, and loaded with symbolism.
My daughter has been in town, working remotely since the outbreak of the Corona virus. She has wanted to make bread since it’s the one thing she never recalls making with me, other than quick breads. Last week we made this hearty Sprouted Whole Wheat Bread with Sunflower Seeds & Beer. That was so tasty we made another loaf after finishing off the first.
This week we tackled Homemade Challah. We made two loaves – one long 6 braided Challah, and one 4 braided round Challah.
The braids and shape of the dough hold specific meaning. Braided ones, which may have three, four, or six strands, are the most common, and because they look like arms intertwined, symbolize love. Round loaves, where there is no beginning and no end, symbolize continuity.
Creating the 4 braided round loaf was much easier than creating the 6 braided long Challah. I think it was just finding the right tutorial that made the difference.
In the end both tasted wonderful! However, I will say that I prefer a sweeter Challah made with honey. In fact, during the high holiday of Yom Kippur (Jewish New Year) and Rosh Hashanah, a blessing is made while dipping a piece into honey to symbolize a sweet New Year.
Regardless of religion everyone enjoys eating Challah. It’s ideal for sandwiches, and especially for making French toast.
If you’ve never made Challah and enjoy making homemade bread, I suggest you give this a try. Plan to start early in the day as the loaves will need time to rise, 2 separate times.
Most Challah recipes are basically the same. However, some use less flour, more yeast, and others make one loaf vs. two or three. So check out the various recipes online to see which one sounds best to you. I used this one because we had the right amount of yeast. Apparently during Covid-19 everyone wants to make bread.
The recipe I used was from Joan Nathan a famous Jewish cook.
Whichever recipe you decide to try, please send me a photo. We can compare notes. Next time I’ll be making one with honey!
- 1½ tablespoons (1½ packages) active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon plus ½ cup sugar
- 1¾ cups lukewarm water
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 8–8 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling
1. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in 1¾ cups of lukewarm water in a large bowl.
2. Whisk the oil into the yeast mixture, then beat in 2 of the eggs, one at a time, along with the remaining sugar and the salt. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.) Gradually add eight cups of flour and stir. (I'd suggest that when the dough holds together, stop adding flour. This could be around 7-8 cups). When the dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out the bowl and grease it (I spray with non-stick spray), then return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour. (You may put the dough in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees, then turned off.) When the dough has almost doubled in volume, punch it down, cover, and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. To make a 6-braided challah, take half the dough and form into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand tapered at the ends about 12 inches long and 1½ inches wide. Pinch the strands together at one end, then gently spread them apart. Next, move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then, take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Regroup to 3 on each side. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2 to the middle, then move the second strand from the right over to the far left. Regroup and start over with the outside right strand. Continue until all the strands are braided, tucking the ends underneath the loaf. The key is always to have 3 strands on each side, so you can keep your braid balanced. Make a second loaf the same way or by making a 4 braided round challah. Place the braided loaves in greased 10- by 4-inch loaf pans or on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches between them.
5. Beat the remaining egg and brush it on the loaves. Let rise another hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brush the loaves with egg again, then sprinkle on poppy or sesame seeds if desired.
7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Cool the loaves on a rack.Enjoy!!!
- When making the challah next time I will replace the sugar with honey. I prefer a honey challah. Although I enjoyed this, I believe I would have liked the challah best made with honey.
- To make rolls, take some dough, about the size of a tennis ball, roll it out to about 12 inch logs, and swirl into a roll. Place on a greased cookie sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
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