Saturday, September 22, 2018

Holiday Challah

This is not the challah you are making your family so you can eat healthier. This is the sweet yellow challah you make for special occasions where everyone around the table leans back and rolls their eyes in ecstasy.

While challah has come to mean the Jewish egg-bread traditionally eaten on Shabbat and holidays (or "challah-days" ;-) pun intended) the name comes from the piece of challah that is required to be separated as an offering or sacrifice to G-d. This "mitzva" or Jewish commandment is required anytime someone bakes with a substantial portion of flour. Baking and taking challah is a mitzvah special to women, and it is also a special time for women to ask for extra blessings - to ask G-d for what they need or want. Women often use this time to ask for peace, healing and blessings for members of the community. I put this recipe together in order to use enough flour to "take challah" or separate a piece of challah and make a blessing on this holy act.

It is traditional to eat round sweet raisin challah for Rosh Hashana, in the merit of having a sweet new year.

Makes approximately 6 substantial loaves (see images).


  • 1.5 oz or 45 grams or 3 Tablespoons yeast
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 3.5 cups warm water (just below body temperature)
  • 5 whole large eggs plus 2 additional yolks in the dough 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (warm enough to be liquid)
  • Heaping Tablespoon honey or more to taste
  • 1.5 Tbsp salt
  • optional - raisins (or chocolate chips, if you're feeling extra fun)
  • 1700 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour (approximately 12-14 cups) (the proportions of the above ingredients do not translate well to whole wheat or other flours)
  • some flour for rolling and braiding
  • 1 additional egg yolk with water for tops
  • optional - poppy seeds or sesame seeds for top
Note: save the 3 extra egg whites for the egg-white omelet you'll make yourself while waiting for the dough to rise. Or make meringues for dessert.

Method (can all be done by hand in one large bowl)

  1. Mix water, sugar, and yeast.
  2. Gently beat eggs.
  3. Add eggs, oils, honey and (optional) raisins. Mix well. Leave the salt sitting out so you don't forget it later.
  4. Slowly add approximately 2/3 of the flour mixing constantly.
  5. Cover with plastic or a damp cloth and let this "sponge" rise approximately 1 hour. (Skip this step if dough will sit overnight.)
  6. Add salt.
  7. Slowly add the rest of the flour while kneading, stretching, and folding the dough to develop the gluten. The dough should loose most of its stickiness and be dense enough to hold the shape of a ball or snake.
  8. Let the dough rise in a warm place for another couple hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
  9. Now would be the time to separate "challah," as mentioned above. HERE are details.
  10. Fold and roll the dough into separate balls in preparation for braiding or making rolls or knots. If you're not the braiding type, roll twelve balls a bit bigger than a golf ball and place in a round pan. We call this "pull-apart challah" (see image).
  11. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  12. Shape dough as desired. Ideas and videos HERE.
  13. Beat egg yolk with a spoonful of water and brush liberally on challah with a pastry brush or paper towel.
  14. Preheat oven to 375 F or 190 C while dough rests and rises a bit.
  15. Bake 20-40 minutes until interior temperate measures 190 F or 88 C.

Send me pictures of your Challah! Happy holidays! 


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