Challah pronounced „khal-eh“ is a Jewish holiday egg enrichened sweet bread with an elegant mahogany colour. It is a symbolic bread which is surrounded by folklore and tradition…
The name “challah” is derived from Hebrew and it means “portion”. It refers to the portion of dough set apart for the high priests in the Temple of Jerusalem. It can have many shapes, each of which having a different symbolic according to the festive day on which it is served: Rosh Hashana's round/coiled loaves symbolize continuity, Yom Kippur's ladder and hand shaped breads symbolize the ascencion to greater heights and the desire to be inscribed in the book of life for the coming year, Purim's triangular loaves symbolize Haman’s ears (Haman the Agagite who with his wife Zeresh instigated a plot to kill all the Jews of ancient Persia ), Shavuot and it’s side by side two oblong breads represent the Tablets of law, Sabbath braided loaves symbolize truth, peace and justice. The poppy seeds symbolize the Manna (substance miraculously supplied as food to the Israelites in the wildness during the Exodus) that fell from heaven.
In biblical times, Sabbath bread was more like pita than the present day Challah we know.
Originally, this bread comes from Eastern European Jews who adopted it from a South Germany bread from the Middle Ages. Since then, Challah became the Jewish ritual bread in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Poland, Eastern Europe and Russia. It arrived in America thanks to the Jews who emigrated. Now, Challah can be found in ethnic bakeries and food markets of all kinds.
Apart from having many different shapes, Challah bread can also be flavored in many different ways (pumpkin, raisins, saffron, cinnamon, orange, etc...).
It’s always a big pleasure for me to bake Challah as it’s one of my favorite breads. The fabulous aromas which fill the house when it is baked announce the forthcoming of a delicious breakfast!
Challah doesn’t only have a beautiful golden crust, but also an uncomparable texture and flavor. This delicacy is very fluffy and light, and tastes heavenly sweet.
I recommend those of you who love baking to try that bread at least once in your life; you’ll soon see that it will become a classic at your house!
This recipe was taken from Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno's marvelous "Ultimate Bread" cookbook.
500g Plain white flour
1/2 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Dried yeast
200ml Water, lukewarm
2 Tbs Light runny honey
2 Eggs (~50g), lightly beaten
60g Unsalted butter, melted
1 Egg yolk, for the glaze
1 Tbs Water, for the glaze
Poppy seeds, to decorate
1. Sprinkle the yeast into the water in a bowl. Leave four 5 minutes and then stir to disolve.
2. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl, make a well in a centre of the flour and pour in the yeasted water.
3. Use a wooden spoon to draw enough of the flour into the yeasted water to form a soft paste.
4. Cover with a tea towel and leave to "sponge" until frothy and risen, about 20 minutes.
5. Add the honey, beaten eggs and melted butter to the flour well. Mix in the flour to form a soft dough.
6. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth, shiny and elastic for about 10 minutes.
7. Put the dough in a buttered bowl, turning to coat evenly with butter. Cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
8. Knock back the dough, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.
9. Divide the dough into three equal pieces.
10. Roll out each piece to form a 40cm (16 inches) long rope.
11. Form a plait with the ropes (see braiding technique).
12. Place on a baking sheet and cover with a tea towel.
13. Prove until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour.
14. Brush with the egg glaze (yolk and water) and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
15. Bake in preheated oven (180°C/350° F) for 45 minutes until richly golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath.
16. Cool on a wire rack
If youn wish, you can divide the dough in order to make smaller breads.
It can be served on Jewish festive days or for breakfast.
(Coiled Challah -Pic by www.challahconnection.com)
(Wine And Challah -Pic by www.jewish-art-and-gifts.com)