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Aug 31, 2007 11:03 AM

Creative Holiday Challah Bread!

I was looking for some good tips and ways to make challah bread, and I came across this article in the FORWARD, a Jewish weekly newspaper:

“Challah comes in many forms, and when preparing for Rosh Hashanah, Jewish cooks often follow the custom of their ancestors by adding raisins to their golden round holiday loaves. The practice originated among Ashkenazic Jews, and much like dipping apples in honey, it signifies hope for a sweet New Year.”

I also liked how they suggested more creative ways to make the bread:

“For more adventurous epicures and nontraditionalists, however, there are other, more inventive ways of adding extra sweetness to the holiday table. Instead of raisins, Nathan suggests using dried apricots, apples, cranberries or dates. “Let your imagination be your guide,” she told the Forward. “Any dried fruit or a mixture of dried fruit is beautiful in challah.”

I’m going to try the recipe and add dried dates and cranberries! Let me know if anyone else tries it and what they think. There are also some good recipes for fish heads in the paper:

This recipe is from “The New American Cooking” by Joan Nathan.
Dried fruit or raisins may be added to this recipe — around ½ a cup is suggested (if using raisins, they may be cut into small pieces in a food processor).

Holiday Challah
1½ tablespoons (1½ packages) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon plus ½ cup sugar
1¾ cups lukewarm water
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups all-purpose flour (about
)Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling

1. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in 1¾ cups of lukewarm water in a large bowl.
2. Whisk the oil into the yeast mixture, then beat in two of the eggs, one at a time, along with the remaining sugar and the salt. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.) Gradually add 8 cups of flour and stir. When the dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out the bowl and grease it, then return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for one hour. (You may also put the dough in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees, then turned off.) When the dough has almost doubled in volume, punch it down, cover, and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. To make a six-braided challah, take half the dough and form into six balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand tapered at the ends about 12 inches long and 1½ inches wide. Pinch the strands together at one end, then gently spread them apart. Next, move the outside right strand over two strands. Then, take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Regroup to three on each side. Take the outside left strand and move it over two to the middle, then move the second strand from the right over to the far left. Regroup and start over with the outside right strand. Continue until all the strands are braided, tucking the ends underneath the loaf. The key is always to have three strands on each side, so you can keep your braid balanced. Make a second loaf the same way. Place the braided loaves in greased 10- by 4-inch loaf pans or on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches between them.
5. Beat the remaining egg and brush it on the loaves. Let rise another half hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brush the loaves with egg again, then sprinkle on poppy or sesame seeds.
7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Remove the loaves from the pans and cool on a rack.

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  1. I've made challah with dried apples and cinnamon sugar, instead of raisins.
    The biggest hit, but definitely not traditional (or kosher), is the chocolate challah I make every year. I make one sesame, one raisin, and one chocolate. The chocolate one rarely makes it to dessert. I sprinkle the top with demerara sugar instead of sesame seeds.

    7 Replies
    1. re: pescatarian

      Why is it not kosher? Not traditional, I get (think "chocolate chip bagels" - cringe) but not kosher? How come?

      1. re: rockycat

        I've had challa with chocolate in it. Oh, the French Toast we made from that challah. ;)

        It wasn't pareve, but it met all the kosher reqs . . .

        1. re: tzurriz

          Yes, not pareve. But also not kosher when being passed around at the dinner table with the brisket. Luckily, we're not a kosher family ;)

          1. re: pescatarian

            You could use parve chocolate chips with no problem. Unless of course there's butter in the challah.

            1. re: chazzer

              It doesnt bother me that it's nor parve, but I suppose that would be an option if it was a concern.

      2. re: pescatarian

        Could you give the recipe for the chocolate challah? Or do you just add chocolate chunks to a regular recipe? We were recently given a hunk of one that someone had made and it was wonderful, especially lightly toasted for breakfast.

        1. re: kittyfood

          I use a standard recipe for challah and replace the raisins with about 3/4 cup chocolate chips (I'm sure chunks would be good too). I do not use the sesame seeds on the top, rather I sprinkle the egg washed dough with demerara sugar.
          It comes out similar to a babka. I find it works out best when I shape it into a braid, rather than a crown, not sure why.
          The basic recipe I use is from local Toronto chef:

      3. If you're going to put dried fruit and even chocolate into your challah, you might as well make this brioche-like dough. You can just spiral it up for the holidays instead of a braid; or some people braid then spiral.

        Please excuse all the beginner language, that's who i originally wrote this out for.


        1 c. warm water
        1 package yeast
        4 1/2 c. unbleached flour
        3/4 c. sugar or less to taste
        2 tsp. salt
        1 stick ( 1/4 pound) butter or margarine
        3 eggs
        poppy or sesame seeds optional

        Mix water and yeast in large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix with fork and let rise 1/2 hour in warm place. ( You can turn on the oven for a minute or two, then turn it off and put in your dough.)

        Meanwhile, put 3 cups flour, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar in food processor and mix with metal blade. slice butter and add it to processor. Process until it's all mixed in. (Unlike cakes and piecrust, you don't have to worry about overworking the dough for bread. You work it and knead it to bring out the gluten, so process away.)

        After yeast mixture has risen, mix in 2 beaten eggs. ( The third egg is for glazing, and since it doesn't take a whole egg for the glaze, you can add half of it with the other eggs.) Add the butter(c)flour mixture and stir in until it gets doughy and too hard to stir ( you can add a bit more flour if it stays loose). Then knead it on a floured surface until it's smooth and elastic. Put in oiled bowl, cover with dishtowel, and put in warm place (or warmed oven) to rise for two hours.

        When dough has doubled, punch it down, knead a couple of times, and braid it. This recipe makes two small loaves or one impressive one. Place on oiled cookie sheet, cover lightly with towel, and let rise in warm place about an hour until it looks big and puffy. ( If you leave it too long the yeast bubbles could pop and it will flatten, and you'll have to knead and braid again. Not long enough and the bread will do all its rising as it bakes and have a pulled look , and will be somewhat dense.) Then brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with seeds, and bake at 350 degrees for 40(c)45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

        1 Reply
        1. re: wearybashful

          Other than using the food processor, it seems pretty similar to the recipe I use for traditional challah. I find that it is so simple to mix together in a big bowl, that I'm not sure I'd want to bother with the food processor in this case.
          I use the crown (what you call "spiral" up) for the traditional sesame or raisin for the holidays, but the chocolate one comes out really nice looking braided for some reason. Either way it will taste great though.

        2. I like to soak dried apricots in orange juice and then dice them when they're nice and plump to add to the holiday Challah. Be sure to coat the chunks with a bit of flour before kneading them in, tho, so they won't sink to the bottom of the loaf while baking.

          I always swirl my Rosh Hashanah Challah (connotes no end to happiness in the New Year) rather than braid them... and when I do braid, I use five strands.

          1. Here's the recipe for Apple Challah from Maggie Glezer's book A Blessing of Bread. I haven't tried it, but it sounds wonderful!