Discover the Art of Baking Challah Bread at Home – Delicious and Beautifully Braided Challah Recipe
It’s a time for reflection, unity, and savoring a traditional bread passed down through generations. This Hanukkah season, we invite you to embark on a culinary journey that pays homage to the delicious bready flavors that define this festive holiday. This recipe, crafted with the spirit of Hanukkah in mind, will guide you in creating a mouthwatering classic Challah Bread.
Here’s a classic challah bread recipe for you to try at home for Hanukkah:
For the Dough:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup lukewarm water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs (2 for the dough, 1 for egg wash)
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp water
Optional Toppings (seeds or coarse salt):
- Poppy seeds or sesame seeds
- Activate the yeast: Combine the lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water, stir gently, and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes until it becomes frothy.
- Mix dry ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining sugar, salt, and 2 cups of flour.
- Add wet ingredients: Add the yeast mixture, vegetable oil, and 2 beaten eggs to the dry ingredients. Stir until a shaggy dough forms.
- Knead the dough: Gradually add the remaining flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 6-8 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
- First rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 to 1.5 hours or until it has doubled in size.
- Punch down and divide: Once the dough has risen, punch it down to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough into two equal portions to make a traditional braided challah. You can also make a single large loaf or divide it into smaller ones.
- Braid the dough: Roll each portion into a rope about 16-18 inches long. To braid the challah, pinch the ropes together at one end, then weave them like you would braid hair. Pinch the other end together to seal it.
- Second rise: Place the braided challah on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise for another 30-45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the braided dough. This will give it a beautiful golden brown color when baked. If desired, you can also sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds over the top.
- Bake: Bake the challah in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If the top starts to brown too quickly, you can cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
- Cool: Remove the challah from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.
Tip: Have left over challah? Try using it for French Toast for breakfast.
Did you know?
One lesser-known fact about making challah bread is that the tradition of braiding it into a recognizable shape carries deep significance. While the most common braid is a three-strand version, seeing six-strand or even more complex braids is not unusual. The three strands represent truth, peace, and justice, and the braided shape symbolizes unity and coming together.
In some Jewish traditions, the number of strands or the complexity of the braid can vary to reflect different aspects of Jewish history and teachings. So, the next time you’re baking challah, consider the profound symbolism behind the bread’s braided design.
A little history:
This classic challah bread recipe is a delightful journey through the time-honored tradition of Jewish baking, delivering a loaf that’s a feast for the taste buds and a visual masterpiece. The recipe’s carefully crafted instructions guide you through creating a soft, slightly sweet, and beautifully braided challah perfect for special occasions and everyday indulgence.
As you knead, let rise, and shape the dough, you’ll be partaking in a ritual that stretches back to ancient times, resonating with rich cultural and spiritual significance. The result is a golden-brown, shiny, and slightly sweet bread perfect for sharing with loved ones, evoking the warmth and unity that makes challah a cherished symbol for the holiday.