Challah. You might've seen it at your local bakery. You might not know how to pronounce it.
One thing we can all agree on is that it's delicious.
Challah is a Jewish egg bread that's traditionally braided and eaten on the Sabbath.
While I was researching how to make braided challah bread, I learned some interesting things about the history and symbolism of Jewish challah.
The bread dough is traditionally made the day before the Sabbath, then it rises overnight, to be baked on the Sabbath morning.
Traditionally, the bread dough is divided into 12 strands to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. The strands are then divided up to braid the loaves.
The bread is also said to symbolize manna from heaven from the Old Testament, and it's often covered in a special cloth to represent the dew that protected the manna.
I've done 3, 4, and 6 strand braided loaves before, and they've all turned out great. Check out this link to see directions for the 4 strand braid.
A 6 strand braid is the simplest to me-- just bring the rightmost strand over 2, under 1, over 2 and repeat.
Yields: 2 large or 4 medium loaves
Time: 2-3 hours
2 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 tbsp yeast
8 to 10 egg yolks (6 oz. total)
5 tbsp veggie oil
5 tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp salt
7 to 8 cups flour
1 egg, beaten + 1 tsp water, for egg wash
1. Combine water and yeast in a bowl and let activate for 5 minutes. Add yolks, oil, honey, vanilla, and salt and combine.
2. Add flour, about 1 cup at a time, until it holds together enough to knead it on the counter. It should be soft and supple, but not very sticky. Knead until it springs back when you press your finger into the dough. You can do this in a stand mixer, if desired.
3. Let dough rise, covered, in a greased bowl until doubled in size.
4. Divide dough into the number of loaves you want, then divide the loaves into strands. Braid dough, place on lined cookie sheets, brush egg wash on the dough, and let rise (uncovered) until very puffy.
5. Bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 25-35 minutes.