Round challah (airy, eggy, braided bread) is baked for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, to symbolize the cycle of life.
What is Challah?
Challah is eaten by Ashkenazi Jews during lots of religious ceremonies, including the weekly sabbath, and it is an enriched eggy bread that is typically braided. You’ll find some challah recipes that don’t have many eggs in them, but it isn’t a challah to me if the challah recipe doesn’t use a lot of eggs!
You’ll also find that most challah recipes use oil rather than butter. By keeping them non-dairy, they can be served with any part of a holiday meal (milk and meat can’t be eaten together in Kosher homes).
Challah doesn’t typically have a glaze, but there are tons of fancy variations on challah such as my spiced apple challah.
How Do You Pronounce Challah?
Challah is pronounced by most English speakers as HA-lah. It’s more proper to make a guttural h sound like you are coughing (a voiceless velar fricative) – just don’t say CHA-lah with the ch pronounced as you would when saying channel.
What Does Challah Taste Like?
Challah is a rich bread almost like a brioche, but more eggy and less buttery. Challah works just as well as brioche in my brioche French toast. In fact, challah is one of the best breads around for French toast.
How Do You Eat Challah?
The best way to eat challah is to simply rip off a piece and eat it. You don’t need to use a knife. Even at big family gatherings for holidays, the rip is almost always acceptable.
Challah can be eaten plain, but some people put salt on it. Salt never spoils or decays so doing so signifies the immortality of the divine bond.
Challah is also great for sandwiches and, as mentioned above, French toast!
Smaller, single serving challah rolls make for perfect buns for sandwiches and even hamburgers!
For a special surprise at the Rosh Hashana table, you can make extra-small challah rolls in cupcake liners!
How to Braid Round Challah
The step-by-step guide below shows the braiding process for a medium or large round challah.
- Divide the dough into four pieces.
- If desired, press raisins into each piece.
- Roll the pieces between your hands to make little snakes of dough.
- Lay the dough out in a tic-tac-toe board shape. One horizontal snake should be weaved over and then under the vertical pieces and the other should be weaved under and then over the vertical pieces.
- On each side of the tic-tac-toe board, you’ll now have one piece of dough that is an under piece and one that is an over piece. Grab the piece that is under and cross it on top of the over piece.
- Repeat the same process, only now you’ll cross the dough in the opposite direction.
- Repeat one last time in the original direction.
- End it all by doing one final cross of each piece in the second direction. This time as you cross, press the dough into the center, sealing it closed.
- Flip the circle upside-down onto parchment paper on a baking sheet or a silpat.
How to Braid Mini Challah Rolls
For mini challah rolls, use the same braiding technique as shown above. However, everything is so much smaller so it’s a little harder to work with. You’ll only be able to get two cross-overs done before you run out of dough to work with.
The braiding effect wasn’t as pronounced on the cupcakes as it was on the large round challah. However (especially if kids are involved), braiding is half of the fun! If you want to skip it, though, the challah cupcakes will still be beautiful and tasty!
Using an Egg Wash on Challah
An egg wash won’t affect the taste of your challah, but it will affect the appearance. Brushing an egg over your challah just before it bakes will give it a shine. If you use just the egg yolk, it will look more yellow and dark. The images in this post use the whole egg. However, I actually prefer the look of the egg yolk only.
Round Challah for Rosh Hashana
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package yeast I prefer Red Star Platinum Yeast
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 egg yolk for egg wash, optional
- Whisk together flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of stand mixer.
- Add honey, vanilla extract, eggs, egg yolks, vegetable oil, and water.
- Place on the stand mixer fitted with dough hook, Mix on low for 30 seconds and gradually increase to high speed. Continue to mix for about 2 minutes or until the starts to come together.
- Remove from the mixing bowl and place surface covered with a little oil. Form the dough into a ball.
- Place in loosely covered (I suggest lightly oiled plastic wrap) bowl and set out to rise for about two hours or until roughly doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough.
- If you plan to make one large loaf, divide the dough into four even pieces. If you want to make cupcake-sized challah rolls, divide the dough into 12 pieces and then divide each piece into four pieces.
- Use the photos and video instruction in this post to braid the dough into a round loaf.
- Set in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Brush challah with egg yolk.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is golden and you can see some light browning in the folds of the bread.
- Set on a cooling rack to cool.
Happy New Year
Happy New Year to all who celebrate! May it be a sweet one filled with joy, love, fabulous friends, and great health!
Here’s one image that shows it all (for all of you Pinners):