Traditional Challah

When you make home-made challah for Shabbat or festivals, you gain a three-fold blessing in  your own home:  sanctifying  the everyday with the special experience of challah-baking,  bringing the aroma of this timeless Jewish ritual into your kitchen, and of course sharing a taste  of the ‘world to come’ with our loved ones.

You can also make a combination of loaves and rolls – which are easy to make and great to have on hand!

Understanding the importance of following a Microbiome Diet for healthy aging, yet there is something special about traditional challah for Shabbat and Jewish holidays. There are many great challah recipes – and also substitutions to meet special needs – and of course our own experiences and family memories play an important role in personal preferences for how challah should taste.

This is my favorite challah recipe, the one that I have been using for the better part of 40 years at home and for teaching the Jewish Study Center Challah Class in the past. This recipe yields  6 – 8  medium-sized challot, or 3 – 4 large challot for special occasions.

This recipe may be cut in half or you can use some is the challah the dough to make Chocolate Rolls which are great for breakfast.

Ingredients

2 scant Tbs yeast (2 American packets)

1.5 C warm water

3 Tbs sugar

4 eggs + egg to separate for egg wash

1/2 c oil + 2 tsp oil for bowl & trays

1/4 c honey 

2 tsp salt 

6 – 7 c bread flour + extra for  kneading and braiding challah 

poppy, sesame seeds 

Equipment

Large bowl for mixing, rising

Wooden spoon for mixing

Custard cup or small bowl for checking eggs

Measuring spoons, cups

Baking tray for challahs

Sunflower seeds or pine nuts for baking trays

Napkin/foil for taking challah

Saran wrap or kitchen towel to cover the rising bread

Instructions 

  1. Mix together yeast, warm water and 1 Tb of sugar into a large bowl and wait until the yeast becomes activated.
  2. Stir in remaining sugar.
  3. Break eggs one at a time into your egg cup to be sure that each one does not have any spot of blood, before adding it into the bowl.
  4. Measure and add the oil and then the honey using the same Tbs or 1 cup measure – this makes it easier because then the honey does not stick to your measuring spoon or cup.
  5. Stir in salt.
  6. Add flour one cup at a time until the dough is sticky but pliable. (This may require some practice – don’t worry about the first few times!)
  1. When you can gather up the dough so that it makes a ball that can be removed cleanly 
    from the bowl, then turn it onto a floured counter or board for kneading.
  2. Knead the dough for 10  minutes until it is smoother and more pliable.
  3. Wash the bowl and add 1 tsp oil to coat the bowl.
  4. Return the bread dough to the bowl and cover with damp kitchen towel or saran wrap.   Leave in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes or un6l doubled.
  5. Punch down the dough and allow to rise again until doubled.
  6. After the 2nd rising, punch down again and divide into 3 sections.  
  7. Take the 1st section out of the bowl for shaping on the floured board or counter.   Depending on the number of braids that you want in your challah, divide the 1st  section  into 3, 4 or 6 pieces to roll into strands for braiding.  This takes some practice and you  should not worry if your braided challot are not perfect.  It is also traditional to roll the  larger pieces into coils to make a snail shape, particularly at the time of the High Holidays.
  8. Aeer you make each braided challah, you will probably end up with a little piece of dough  that did not fit into the braid.  Pinch these off and aggregate them into a ping,pong ball sized piece of dough that is taken for the ritual challah and put into foil.  (When you bake  the challah you can put this in the bottom of the oven where it may burn.  Some people  also discard it in a paper napkin or kitchen towel.)
  9. Place each completed braid on a greased cookie sheet with or without pine,nuts, according  to your taste.  Spray each challah with water to keep them moist while they are rising.  
  10. Separate the last egg and add 1 tsp water to the egg yolk; mix to make an egg wash.  Using  a pastry brush, sparingly coat the challot with the egg wash.  Add the egg wash to each  challah one at a 6me, sprinkling each with seeds before adding the egg wash to the next  challah so that it does not dry out before you sprinkle the sesame seeds and/or poppy  seeds.
  11. Allow the challot to double in size, this should take another 45 min., and con6nue to spray  with water from 6me to 6me to keep them moist.
  12. Preheat oven to 350 and bake challot for 20 – 30 minutes.  Times vary depending on how  “hot” your oven runs, so check the challot at intervals to see if they are golden,brown.  
Loaves and special round Challah shapes for the Jewish High Holidays at the final proof stage before baking

Once you become accustomed to baking challah at home it is hard to ever go back to the store, bought variety! It may seem difficult at first so stick with it. 

Like many other things, the only  way to get better at it is to practice. Let me know how it goes!

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