Thank the Jews for giving us this versatile bread.Challah is not something that is readily available in supermarkets/bakeries where I live, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that I’m only discovering it now. I’d skimmed over countless French toast and bread pudding recipes in the past and wonder what was challah and why it was so special. And for anyone still harbouring those questions, I’m here to show you just why.
I used this recipe from The Kitchn to make this lovely 6 piece challah over here, and for my first time making it, it turned out perfectly. It’s nothing complicated all, but it will take a lot of your time. I started making this around 9 am, but it was only ready to eat at 2 pm. Five hours of work, but so worth it.
History lesson: In biblical times, the Israelites wandered the desert for approximately 40 years, after their Exodus from Egypt, where they had been slaves (Think Moses parting the Red Sea, the books of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua in the bible). In the desert, it is impossible to grow any food, and slaughtering all your livestock isn’t a good idea either. It is believed that everyday, except for the Sabbath Day which Jews keep holy, and religious holidays, God would send down bread, in the form of manna, down from the heavens for his people to consume. On the day before the Sabbath or a holiday, God would send down a double portion of manna. In modern day times, challah bread is usually eaten on the Sabbath or during Jewish holidays.
It also makes for killer bread pudding.
The difference between challah bread and most other types of bread is its use of eggs, oil and sugar: which makes for a much richer crumb structure and a sweeter bread. The most difficult thing about making challah is the braiding. I honestly think that this is akin to braiding hair. If you’re a girl, great news! If you’re a boy, it can’t hurt you to learn something. If this 6 strand challah frightens you, you can opt for the much simpler 3 strand, but this will impress anyone who visits your dinner table.
The challah making process is very similar to those of other breads, activating yeast, combining dry ingredients, then wet ingredients, kneading, leaving it to rise, braiding and baking. Simple!
I served my challah with this black fig and cardamom that I swiped from the farmer’s market at Bottom Drawer. This rocks! I also toasted some slices of challah and topped them with scrambled eggs. And when it went stale, I make this delicious bread pudding, as one does.
Top tip: When you leave your dough to rise, you can be assured that it has risen to its full potential if you poke a hole with your finger, and the dough does not spring back.
The braiding process is pretty simple once you get the technique but it basically works like this:
- Separate the dough into 6 pieces
- Roll each piece of dough into a long piece of rope, about 11 inches long. Try and get each rope to be of uniform diameter. I really struggled with this myself, but having distorted ropes only makes for a loaf that is thin in some parts and thicker in others.
- Braid the ropes!
The next step is to leave the challah to rise for a second time, and it is evident that this second rising really increases the volume of the loaf.
Many thank yous to The Kitchn for posting this really helpful instructable, I’d encourage you all to get baking because this has 13553 uses 😍