Anyone who has had a good Challah knows that you don’t need an excuse for a pillow-y soft, eggy slice of the cake-like bread.
But if there’s one thing us Jews knows, it’s food, and how to create holidays based around food (or the absence thereof).
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement respectively, are two of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. It’s traditional on those days to have a round challah, as opposed to the standard braided log. The roundness symbolizes different things depending on who you ask. The ‘head’ of the year, the circle of life, completeness, etc.
“But wait!” I hear some of you saying. “Don’t you fast on Yom Kippur?”
Well yes, we do. But the night before Yom Kippur, that’s a different story!
This beaut of a Challah was cold-fermented with (*sigh*) commercial yeast overnight, braided with the pound (#) method, and baked just in time to be devoured pre-fast.
I’m not going to post the recipe for this one, as I used the Challah recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day with no modifications, but here are some Challah making tips for you!
- Only use the yolks. Egg whites will dry out your bread, the yolks keep it moist and give it that nice yellow colour. If your recipe calls for a specific number of eggs, multiply that number by 3 and that’s the number of yolks you should use (i.e. if your recipe calls for 2 eggs, use 6 yolks).
- Everyone has their own favourite sweetener for Challah. Some people just use sugar, I prefer honey (better for you, tastier). This Rosh Hashanah, I tried someone else’s Challah who had subbed the honey 1-to-1 for pure maple syrup, and it was fantastic. The taste was distinctive and complex, I plan on trying it myself. You could also use agave nectar, if that’s your shtick.
- Fillings! Challah is so versatile, and especially if you don’t mind it looking a bit rough, you can do pretty much anything with it. Case in point? my sad looking, but utterly delicious tasting, Apple and Honey (and Cinnamon) Challah, made for Rosh Hashanah (below). I’ve also made Bon Appetit‘s “Babkallah” and it’s as delicious as you think it is. Whatever you’re filling, just make sure when you flatten your ropes of dough, that you don’t go too thin. I always use my hands to flatten rather than a rolling pin.
- On a sweet challah (like the two below), garnish with turbinado sugar for a really delicious crunch and hit of sweetness.
- On a traditional challah, try adding some flaky sea salt (I use Maldon) to the sesame seed garnish. It’s a modern, refined play on the traditional Zaidie habit of pouring table salt on their slice of Challah, and it tastes great too.
- I don’t care if you have a bread machine. Challah is so easy to make, and so delicious, there’s no excuse for not making it by hand!