This deliciously soft challah bread recipe is the perfect loaf to master while in quarantine or otherwise! It’s soft, sweet, and can be used as a snack, sandwich bread, or some seriously delicious french toast. While not Jewish myself, I thoroughly enjoyed learning the history and traditions that surround this loaf of doughy goodness. I hope you will, too.
What is challah?
Challah a ceremonial Jewish bread, and while it is particularly enjoyed on sabbaths, anyone can indulge in it year-round! What makes challah, so special and interesting, is that the knots, shapes, and twists are loaded with symbolism. For example, the simple braid in this recipe symbolizes love because of its resemblance to arms being intertwined. During Rosh Hashanah, the challah is baked in a round shape to symbolize the circle of the year and continuance of life. Additionally, there are loaves baked with twelve humps to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel and so on.
What’s the difference between challah and brioche?
Because challah is Jewish, it’s kosher, which means no dairy, ie. France’s favorite ingredient – butter!
Where does challah come from?
Challah and the traditions behind it are ancient and revered. The bread can be traced back at least 2,500 years when it was first mentioned as chet-lamed-heh. It’s also mentioned in several books of the bible, such as Leviticus and Numbers.
Why does this recipe make two loaves?
In Jewish tradition, two loaves are prepared to symbolize the ‘double manna’ that fell from the sky on the eve of the Shabbat.
Here’s what you’ll need:
flour, sugar, honey, salt, olive oil, yeast, warm water, eggs, sesame seeds
add a pinch of sugar and yeast to warm water to dissolve for 5-10 minutes. In the mean time, divide your eggs.
combine yolks (save the whites for later), olive oil, sugar, salt and flour. Mix.
Add yeast mixture and mix until you are able to knead
knead for 10 minutes
place in oiled bowl and cover
let rise for 2 hours
split into two equal sections
divide each half into 3 ropes and braid as you would hair, transfer to parchment paper
brush with reserved yolks from earlier for first egg wash. Allow to rise for 30-45 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 F/175 C
Give additional light wash, top with sesame seeds
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 F/175 C rotating halfway through. Enjoy!
Slice or use as pull apart bread
Deliciously Soft Challah Bread
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 6 large eggs
- 4 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tbsp honey
- 1 pinch salt
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- Mix yeast and warm water with a pinch of sugar to dissolve. (do this regardless of instant or active yeast, it helps to dissolve and blend later)
- While yeast is dissolving, separate egg yolks and whites
- Combine flour, egg yolks (save whites for later), sugar, honey, salt, and olive oil.
- Stir in yeast mixture and mix until able to knead
- Knead thoroughly for 10 minutes
- Set aside in oiled bowl and allow to rise for 2 hours
- Separate into two halves (This recipe makes 2 large loaves)
- Divide each half into 3 ropes and braid – pinch together top and bottom
- Brush with egg whites and cover for 30 -40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C
- Give additional brush of egg white and top with sesame seeds
- Bake for 20-25 minutes rotating halfway through
- Let cool before slicing