Challah is the name of the beautiful braided egg bread that is served on the table during Sabbath all over the world. It’s a celebration bread in Jewish tradition, and so here in Lisbon it has been served several times with Friday night dinner. Challah are made in several sizes and shapes that all have a different meaning. The most common one is braided with three or six strands and some say it symbolizes love, it looks like intertwined arms. Three braids are said to symbolize truth, peace, and justice. Twelve humps made from two small or one large braided bread are said to represent the 12 loaves kept in the Temple of Jerusalem for the 12 tribes of Israel. Round challah are usually made for Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year. The round shape has no endings which symbolizes continuity, the wheel of the seasons, or a spiral of upward progress.
The word Challah derives from a reference in the Torah (Jewish written law, the first five books of the Jewish bible) saying that God instructs Moses to set aside a portion of each loaf and use it as an offering to local Jewish priests.
The bread has been the Jewish ritual bread for ages. Housewives used to knead the dough on Thursday and let it rise overnight. Next Friday morning they woke up early to bake mostly all the bread for the week at the same time, to not waste any fuel. So if you wish to have fresh challah on the weekend, make sure you prepare the dough right on time. Although back in the days it rise overnight, 2-3 hours will do it as well. The distinctive smell that emanates from the oven and fills the house when it is baked is the smell of Sabbath but also the best smell to start your weekend!
Challah is at its best the day itself, but leftovers can be wrapped in plastic once the bread is completely cool and stored at room temperature wrapped in plastic. Challah is slightly sweet and amazingly soft inside which makes it similar to brioche. Leftovers serve perfect for french toast.
- KitchenAid® K400 Blender
- 500 grams flour
- 11 grams dry yeast or 25 gram of fresh yeast
- 1 tbsp sugar not neccesarily
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup oil olive oil or vegetable oil
- 200 ml warm water
- 1 tsp salt
- sesame seeds, poppy seeds what you wish, can be none ass well
- Add half of the water (100 ml), yeast and sugar to a large bowl and mix. Wait to see if the yeast is active (foaming). Slowly add the flour to the bowl, keep mixing. If desired add 1 egg, but this isn't a must. This you can do by hand or you'll let the kitchen aid do all the work 🙂
- Add the oil to the mixture and the rest of the water. If the dough feels sticky, add a bit more flour, if it's too dry add more water. When everything is well combined, add salt and mix until the dough is smooth and doesn't stick to your hands.
- Grab another bowl and add oil on the sides and a bit on the dough. Add the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic foil. Cover with a thick towel and let it rest between 1,5-2 hours until it doubled it's size, preferably in a warm area in the house.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and divide it into 6 equal parts. Roll each part into 30 cm long and do it equally.
- Now the braiding starts! Braid two challah's from 3 rolls and be careful not to braid too tight cause they need to breath in the oven. After braiding squeeze them a bit with a bump on each side.
- Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper. Transfer the challah's to the baking trays and cover with a towel. Let it rest for 1 to 1,5 hour more.
- Preheat the oven to 175 °C . Meantime mix one egg with a teaspoon of olive oil and mix it well. Use a brush to cover the challah's with the eggs mixture (this will give them this beautiful colour). Add sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds on top.
- Transfer the challah's into the over and let it bake for 25 minutes. Once ready take them out of the oven and cover with a towel. Let it cool down for 15 minutes.
- Challah can also be made with chocolate, honey, nuts or something salty like feta cheese. You just add it to the dough before you braid it.