HOW TO BAKE CHALLAH BREAD

June 14th, 2020

Words by Neta Revel · Photographs by Aviad Zisman

Everyone has been baking during this lockdown! The extra time and the feelings of uncertainty I've been experiencing have cause me to feel strangely attracted to baked goods, too. In Israel, where I live, and in Jewish homes all around the world, it is traditional to eat challah bread at Friday dinner and on major holidays. My grandma used to bake her own challah every Friday, and her home would fill up with the most amazing smell. When I baked my own challah for the first time, during this quarantine, I felt like it was some sort of magic trick. I was so amazed that just by following a recipe I was able to fill my home with that same smell and feeling. I got so excited and also really calm. It felt like Shabbat in my little rented apartment here in Tel-Aviv, and it created a feeling of home and family. I have learned that making challah bread is a skill, and every time you make this recipe it will be even better than the last. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed eating all the challah bread.

Ingredients:

- 3 ½  cups of flour

- 1 tablespoon of dry yeast

- 4 tablespoons of white sugar

- 2 eggs

- 2 teaspoons of salt

- 1 cup of warm water

- ¼ cup of oil (I used sunflower oil)

- Sesame seeds

Steps:

1. Sift the flour

2. Mix flour, sugar and dry yeast together in a large bowl

3. Add warm water and mix​

4. Add the eggs and the salt, then mix

5. Pour in the oil and mix

6. Take the dough out of the bowl and sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of it. Then knead for at least 20 minutes (this step is a proper workout). You can add a little flour every time the dough gets too sticky.

7. Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl and gently oil the top of the ball of dough as well. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise until doubled. I recommend at least one hour.

8. Divide the dough in two, one for each of your challahs. Then divide each of these two balls into either three or four equal-sized pieces. These will make up the individual braids of your challah. You can make your bread out of three or four braids, or any number you have in mind! There are a million different ways to braid a challah.

9. Knead each ball a little. Fold it into itself a few times, and then cover with a towel. Let the dough rest for another 20 minutes

10. Roll each ball into a rope.

11. Braid your challah! For the four-stranded challah, lay the four strands out together on your kitchen counter and pinch at the top to connect. Then pick up the rope at the far right. Weave it OVER the strand to its left, UNDER the strand after that, and then again OVER the last one. Then take hold of the strand at the far right again and repeat these steps until your challah is braided! If you want to start off with a slightly easier braid, you can use just three strands. Repeat the steps above, braiding the strands together as you would braid your hair!

12. Cover with a towel and let the challah rise until doubled. This will take between 30 minutes to an hour. You can start preheating your oven.

13. Brush the challah bread with egg yolk, then sprinkle with sesame seeds

14. Bake your challah about 30 minutes at 180 C. The bottom of the challah should look brown and baked.

15. Now comes the hardest part: Wait until the challah is completely cool before cutting into it. Shabbat Shalom!

Neta Ravel is a 29-year-old fashion designer based in Tel-Aviv, Israel. You can find her on Instagram @netaravel

Aviad Zisman is a 35-year-old photographer based in Tel-Aviv, Israel. You can find his work on Instagram @aviad_zisman and www.aviadzisman.com

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