Challah bread is a traditional Jewish bread that holds deep cultural and religious significance in Jewish households. It's made from a simple combination of flour, water, yeast, eggs, sugar, and salt. The dough is usually braided into a woven loaf, giving it a very distinctive appearance that is often associated with Jewish holidays.
Challah bread is most often associated with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. But why is challah bread usually enjoyed during Rosh Hashanah?
Here are some key reasons why challah bread is consumed during Rosh Hashanah:
Symbol of a Sweet New Year: Challah often contains sweet ingredients like honey or raisins, emphasizing the desire for a sweet and prosperous year ahead. Honey, in particular, symbolizes the hope for a sweet and joyful life.
Circular Shape: Some challahs are baked in a circular shape rather than the typical braided loaf. This circular form represents the cyclical nature of the year and the hope for a year full of blessings that come full circle.
Blessing and Gratitude: The act of blessing and breaking bread together with family and friends is an important part of Jewish tradition. Sharing challah during Rosh Hashanah meals fosters a sense of community and gratitude for the blessings of the past year.
How do you make challah bread?
Making fresh bread can seem like a daunting task, but it really isn't that hard to do, even for a novice cook. Here's a recipe for Moroccan-style challah bread that you can try at home.
Moroccan Style Challah Bread Recipe
For the Challah:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 egg, beaten
- Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (for topping)
In a small bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let it sit for about 10 minutes until it becomes frothy.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, salt, honey, and orange zest.
Slowly add the yeast mixture to the egg mixture and stir until well combined.
Gradually add the flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. If using raisins, fold them into the dough.
Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 8-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 to 1.5 hours or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
Punch down the dough to remove excess air, then divide it into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a long rope, about 16-18 inches in length.
Braid the ropes together to form your challah loaf.
Place the braided challah on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the challah with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the challah is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Allow the challah to cool before slicing and serving. Enjoy your Moroccan-style challah bread during your Rosh Hashanah celebration!
I also recommend brushing honey over the bread and serving it with a side of apple jelly. And if you're looking for the perfect wine pairing to enjoy with your challah bread, we recommend a glass of riesling, chardonnay, or sauternes.
Each family has their own recipe and variations of challah bread, so feel free to experiment with different braiding styles or toppings. Enjoy!