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ChefTalk.com › How To › How To Make Challah

How To Make Challah

 

By Becky Billingsley

 

Nothing goes better with warm fall and winter soups than a hunk of freshly baked bread, and Challah is an often overlooked choice for non-Jewish home bakers.

 

You don't have to be Jewish to understand the appeal of this soft and slightly sweet pull-apart bread.

 

Challah (pronounced halla) commemorates the time around the 7th century B.C. when Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert after their Exodus from Egypt. During the Exodus, bread, or manna, fell from the heavens to feed them. But since no work is done on Saturdays according to Jewish traditions, a double portion of bread fell the days before religious holidays or the Sabbath.

 

This double portion is why Sabbath challah is made into a braid, also called a "double loaf."

 

Traditional Challa does not contain butter or milk according to Jewish laws, and there are also eggless versions, but the recipe in this article does contain eggs. It is shared by Inbal Bresnahan, who owns Diner at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, S.C. She is a native of Israel, where her parents both work as chefs. This is the recipe Bresnahan learned from her family, and every Friday she bakes fresh loaves. While many of her customers buy challah for their Sabbath and Holy Day meals, the chef also has a number of non-Jewish fans who simply appreciate the soft and flavorful loaves.

 

To make Challah:

 

Blend together:

 

1 1/2 cups hot water

3 packages active dry yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

 

challah 1 - yeast.JPG

 

Let this mixture sit 15 minutes.

 

challah 2 - yeast rising.JPG

After 15 minutes, the yeast mixture will look like this.

 

 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix:

 

1 5-pound bag all-purpose sifted flour, reserving 1/2 cup

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

1 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup if adding mix-ins)

2 tablespoons salt

 

 

challah 3 - sifting flour.JPG

sifting flour

 

 

Add oil, sugar and salt to the flour, and mix well.

 

challah 4 - oil additions to flour.JPG

oil additions to flour

 

 

 

Add eggs and hot water, and mix well.

 

3 eggs

2 3/4 cups hot water (you can add a little more, if needed)

 

challah 5 - egg additions to flour.JPG

 

 

Add the yeast mixture, and mix well.

 

challah 6 - yeast additions to flour.JPG

 

Put your hands in the bowl and finish mixing so the dough is thoroughly incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a lightly floured surface (this is what the remaining half-cup of flour was for), and start kneading. Continue kneading for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dough feels elastic and smooth.

 

challah 7 - finished mixing.JPG

finished mixing

 

 

challah 8 - kneading.JPG

Knead the dough for 15 to 20 minutes.

 

 

Place the dough, covered, in a warm corner of the kitchen away from drafts and let rise 3 hours. After 3 hours are up, knead the dough again.

 

challah 9 - rising.JPG

 

Now it's time to shape the loaves, but first pinch off a small piece of dough and set it aside. Chef Bresnahan's mother always told her this tithe was "for the poor people," and some Jewish bakers consider it a tithe for their rabbis.

 

challah 10 - tithing.JPG

It's traditional to pinch off a small piece of dough "for the poor people" when making challah.

 

 

 

 

To shape the dough, cut one-sixth of the bread dough off.

 

challah 11 - portion into 6 loaves.JPG

Each loaf should be 1/6 of the original batch of dough.

 

 

Optional: Before shaping the dough you can add raisins, chocolate chips, dates, cinnamon, dried chilies, olives or other sweet or savory ingredients. However, if you add ingredients, reduce the amount of sugar in the original recipe to 1/4 cup.

 

Take that one-sixth piece and cut it into three equal pieces. Roll each of these three pieces into cylinders, each about 18 inches long.  Lay the cylinders out side by side, and pinch their tops together at one end.

 

challah 12 - three cylinders.JPG

To make a challah braid, divide the 1/6 piece of dough into three equal portions and roll into long cylinders.

 

 

 

challah 13 - pinch cylinders together.JPG

Pinch the ends of the three cylinders together at one end.

 

 

 

Now simply braid the three dough strands as you would a hair braid. When you get to the end of the braid, cut off the remaining 2 inches with a knife. Place the braid on a greased baking sheet and let rise 40 minutes.

 

challah 14 - start braiding.JPG

Plait the three dough strands as you would a hair braid.

 

challah 15 - cut off braid end.JPG

When there is only 2 inches left unbraided, cut off the excess portion.

 

challah 16 - risen loaf.JPG

Place the braid on a greased pan and let rise for 40 minutes.

 

 

 

Whisk together an egg wash of:

 

5 eggs

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons sugar

 

challah 17 - mixing egg wash.JPG

 

After the loaf has risen for 40 minutes, brush the dough with the egg wash. At this time you can sprinkle the dough with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, if desired. Bake for 17 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven, until golden brown and done.

 

challah 18 - brushing egg wash.JPG

Brush the egg wash on the risen loaf.

 

Instead of the braid, you can also make a round loaf like is eaten on High Holy Days. Take a one-sixth portion of the dough, roll it out into one long cylinder and coil it into a shape like a Hershey's Kiss. Then follow the same directions as above for rising, brushing with egg wash and baking.

 

challah 19 - coiled loaf.JPG

Challah can also be coiled into a round loaf.

 

 

 

 

 

challah 20 - baked braid.JPG

After applying egg wash, sesame or poppy seeds can be sprinkled on top.

 

challah 21 - baked round loaf.JPG

Challah coiled into a round loaf is eaten on Jewish High Holy Days, but anyone of any religion can enjoy this sweet and soft bread.

 

 

 

Comments (2)

This is a really well done piece thank you!
You're so welcome! This was a delicious article to research.
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