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Challah is the typical bread for Shabbat, that is, Friday night, which is a very special time of the week for Jews.
At the beginning of Shabbat, just after sunset, Jews recite a prayer, the Kiddush, to give thanks to God for having created the world and to have rested on the seventh day; during Kiddush, the wine and challah bread will be blessed
Challah is bread similar to pain brioche, but it’s a little less sweet and more compact.
[Recipe updated on 07/06/2012, with directions from Mrs. Garelik, who undoubtedly makes the best challah I’ve ever tried]
- 4 cups warm water
- 2 cubes of fresh yeast or 2 packets of dehydrated granular yeast
- 1 cup light seed oil, like sunflower or canola
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 kg flour
- 2 egg yolks to brush the bread
- sesame or poppy seeds as a garnish for the bread
- Dissolve the yeast in a large bowl with warm water (not boiling!). Let it rest for a few minutes to reactivate the yeast, particularly if you use dry granular yeast.
- Add sugar, oil, salt, and eggs to the bowl, then mix everything together; now add the flour, but slowly, two cups at a time, because it is not said that you will want to use it all. You will use about 2 kg, but perhaps even a little less, depending on weather conditions, and many other unpredictable factors.
- When the dough becomes compact and no longer sticks to your hands, knead it well on a floured surface for ten minutes, then transfer it to a lightly greased bowl and let it rise for at least one hour (even two, if you wish) covered with a damp cloth until it doubles.
- Once the mixture is well leavened, shape it (and if you do the hafrashat – I am talking to Jewish readers! – remember to take the part of dough required!). A simple braid with three rolls, like braided hair, is easily accomplished, looks great, and with this mixture if you can make 8.
- Put the bread braids on baking pans covered with parchment paper, allow them to leaven for another half an hour.
- Once fully leavened, brush the challot with 2 yolks diluted in a little water, and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, then bake in a preheated oven at 200°.
- Cook the challot at 200° for about 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180° and bake for another 20 minutes.
- The baking time depends on the oven (about 25/30 minutes, usually), but you will quickly notice if the challah is cooked: the surface will turn a nice color, between brown and golden, releasing a sweet aroma that would be noticed by even the most careless cooks ...
Traditionally, challah is covered during Kiddush and the blessing with a finely embroidered cloth; when the blessing ends, the head of the family breaks one of the challot into small parts, spreads a little salt on it, and offers it to the table guests. However, challah is a bread is suitable for every occasion, whether for meals, or for breakfast, or a snack.
P.S. Beware of those who use butter in this recipe instead of oil, or even worse, milk, or yogurt! No Jew would ever do that, because it is forbidden to mix dairy products with meat, and on Shabbat, any Jewish family definitely eats meat!