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Traditional Soft, Fluffy Challah for Shabbat

Traditional Soft, Fluffy Challah for Shabbat

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With Pesach over, you have a couple of days to stock up on flour and yeast, pull out your mixing bowls and turn out some braided loaves of soft, pillowy goodness. Trust me, it’s well worthwhile! (And I say that having made it four days before (!) Pesach, after a series of mini–kitchen disasters.)


Choose a very large bowl. You can see from my pictures that my bowl was not large enough, so after making the dough I transferred it to a large disposable pan to rise.

This recipe yields enough dough for six loaves, and the dough needs enough space to double in size while rising.

NOTE: I’ve included recipes for 1 loaf or 2 loaves at the bottom of this post.


To help with the rising, in the summertime, I sometimes put the dough outside in a sunny spot. In the winter, I start preheating my oven and put the bowl on the stovetop. The heat comes up and creates a warm space for the dough. After an hour and a half, the dough should be double its original size and ready to work with.


After the dough has risen, it’s time to do the mitzvah of separating challah. Say the blessing, separate a small piece of dough, and set it aside to burn after the challah has finished baking. For more about this mitzvah, and a step-by-step guide, watch this quick do-it-yourself clip.


Now divide the dough into six relatively equal pieces. Each of the six pieces will make one challah, or you can use some of the dough to make rolls. I made four full-sized challahs and eight rolls.


Ready to start? Pick up one of your chunks of dough, roll it out and cut into three (as pictured). Then roll out each of the three pieces, and you’ll be ready to braid.


Pinch the three strands together at one end and begin to braid. If you’ve ever braided hair, you know how to braid challah. It’s exactly the same. It’s a repetitive motion of crossing the outer strands over the middle strand. Start with the right strand and pull it over the middle so it’s now in the center. Now pull the left strand over the new center strand, and again pull the right strand over the middle. Repeat until the loaf is fully braided, then pinch the ends together tightly. For a neater, rounder look, tuck both ends under the loaf (see the difference in the picture).


Making challah rolls is a bit simpler. Instead of cutting the dough into three pieces, cut it into four. Roll each one up individually as pictured. Tuck the ends under when done—this will stop them from unrolling.

If you’re finding the braiding tricky, you can use the roll technique to make large round challahs as well. Simply roll one of the original six chunks of dough into a line, roll up as pictured and tuck the end underneath.

NOTE: This recipe yields 6 loaves. Scroll down for the recipe for 1 loaf or 2 loaves.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp. dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 5 cups very warm water
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1¼ cups honey
  • 1 cup oil (canola or light olive oil)
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • Approximately 18 cups flour

For the egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla

Directions:

  1. In a very large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in 2 cups warm water and let sit about 15–20 minutes until thick and frothy.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and half the flour. Mix until a loose batter forms. Add the rest of the flour a couple of cups at a time. You may not need all 18 cups of flour, so go slowly towards the end. Alternatively, you may need slightly more. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Once the dough has enough flour, knead it for a couple of minutes. I do this in the bowl. (You can do this recipe by hand or with a mixer.)
  3. Cover the dough with a wet towel or plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1½ hours. Dough should double in size.
  4. Punch the dough down and let it rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 6 equal pieces.
  5. Braid according to pictures and directions above. Place loaves on lightly greased pans and let rise for another 40 minutes.
  6. Beat the egg with the honey and vanilla and gently brush over the loaves. Bake at 375° F for approximately 45 minutes. Loaves should be golden on top, and firm on the bottom.

There is a tradition in some Jewish communities to make shlissel challah the week after Pesach. Shlissel means “key,” and the custom involves either baking the challah in the shape of a key, or wrapping ones real house (or business) key in foil and pressing it into the underside of the challah before baking. The key is removed before the challah is eaten, and the tradition is considered a segulah (spiritually propitious) for livelihood.

To Make a Smaller Batch of Challah:

For those wondering why I’ve used such a big recipe, allow me to explain. A big part of making challah, is doing the mitzvah of “taking challah.” This is when we say a blessing and separate a piece of dough, which we must burn before we can eat the bread. In biblical times, a portion was separated and given to the priests who served in the holy Temple.

Doing this reminds us that whatever we are given is not for our use alone. If we have wisdom, money or good health, our first step is to put them towards a G dly purpose.

In order to separate challah and recite the blessing, the dough should contain at least 59 ounces of flour (i.e. 3.7 lb. or 1.7 kilo). If the amount of flour is between 43 and 59 ounces (2.6 to 3.7 lb., or 1.230 to 1.7 kilo), challah should be separated without a blessing. But if the dough contains less than 43 ounces of flour (2.6 lb. or 1.2 kilo), challah is not separated.

If you don’t have a kitchen scale, as many home cooks don’t, it’s hard to know how much flour you’re using. Also different flours weigh different amounts, so it’s almost impossible to give equivalent measurements in cups. My recipe calls for 18 cups of flour, which is approximately one 5lb bag, so you know you’re definitely in the clear for separating challah and saying the blessing.

If 5-6 loaves is too much for your family, here are a few suggestions:

  1. You can make a full batch and freeze the extra for the next few weeks. This way you can bake challah once a month, but still have fresh homemade challh each Shabbat. For best results, let the loaves cool fully after removing from the oven, then wrap in foil and place in a ziptop bag, with all the air squeezed out, and freeze.
  2. You can make a full batch of dough, say the blessing and separate the challah, then divide the dough into 5 pieces and freeze each one in a separate zip-top bag. Each week, remove one (or more) bags from the freezer, bring to room temperature and give it time to rise. Then braid and bake.

Having said that, for those who want to make a small batch, this recipe divides best by 5. So:

For One Loaf:

  • 2¼ tsp. dry yeast (0.25 oz. / 7 grams)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 3 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Approximately 4 ½ cups flour (as always, add the flour slowly towards the end and feel if the dough needs more or less)

Directions are the same as above.

For Two Loaves:

Two loaves are traditionally used on Shabbat

  • 4 ½ tsp. dry yeast (0.5 oz. / 14 grams)
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup honey
  • 6 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Approximately 9 cups of flour (as always, add the flour slowly towards the end and feel if the dough needs more or less)

Directions are the same as above.


Miriam Szokovski is the author of the historical novel Exiled Down Under, and a member of the Chabad.org editorial team. She shares her love of cooking, baking and food photography on Chabad.org’s food blog, Cook It Kosher.
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Angelika London December 9, 2017

Hi, I just wanted to ask a question about when I can bake the challah? Do I have to bake it on Friday only or can I bake it on Wednesday for Shabat?
My mum always told me I have to make it on Friday, but Friday is the busiest day for me and so hard to bake on top of everything.

Thnx Reply

Geraldine UK December 6, 2017

Hi there, I absolutely love this recipe and am so happy I have finally managed to make proper and delicious Challah! Sooo if I want to freeze the dough ... at what point in the process should I do that? After the first prove or once it has been platted and had the second prove? Thanks ! Reply

M. Diane Queens November 10, 2017

oH my goodness! Okay! I killed my yeast! Poor little things. I tried to revive them. Next time I will add salt to flour before adding flour to yeasty liquid. Did not get the rise I wanted, but got a bit when I put the dough in a smaller bowl and put that smaller bowl inside bigger bowl inside larger one with hot water in it!! Thank G-d Google led me to a site about how to save your challah dough!! Aaaargh! And Shabbos is about to com ‘aknockin.

My two braided medium size loaves and one curled bun style loaf are in the oven right now. I’ll have just enough time to get ready to meet Shabbos after turning off the oven.

Dear L-rd, please let my first challas turn out well!

Again, Gut Shabbos! Reply

M. Diane Queens November 10, 2017

Uh oh! Miriam! When it said add all your ingredients, after preparing the yeast, I added 1 1/2 egg(s) (I am making 1.5x your one loaf recipe) to the salt and flour. Well, how bad can it be? Maybe not so fluffy? I did not add the honey or vanilla, thank goodness! I will just use a little more egg with honey and vanilla foe glaze before baking. These will be my first two loaves of challah!
Thank you for this recipe, Miriam- and thank you Chabad website folks for publishing it regularly right before Shabbos! Good Shabbos everyone! Reply

Leonore Toronto, Canada via chabadmarkham.org November 7, 2017

Is it quick rising yeast or regular yeast? Reply

Miriam Szokovski November 9, 2017
in response to Leonore:

you can use either Reply

Leonore Toronto, Canada via chabadmarkham.org November 7, 2017

I have a question. For one loaf. It says 1 cup of water with the yeast. At the bottom it says follow instructions as above. The above instructions say - "dissolve yeast and sugar in 2 cups warm water and let sit about 15–20 minutes until thick and frothy"

For one loaf is it also 2 cups for the yeast and then 1 cup later in the flour?
thanks Reply

Miriam Szokovski November 9, 2017
in response to Leonore:

no, it is one cup water total for a single loaf. Reply

M. Diane Queens November 10, 2017
in response to Leonore:

Well, that might account for my yeast/liquid not wanting to accept that last cup and a quarter of flour.

That dough turned into a stubborn child who would not eat another forkful of peas. Have a little more flour. NO!! Come on, just a little more? For me?? Nooooooo!! Reply

Toni Denmark October 10, 2017

Hi,

as a kid I would get this wonderful braided bread with poppyseeds that smelled of honey & cardemom, and it was only recently I realised it must have been challah. Been looking for a recipe, and so I thought yours sounded nice, but was wondering if fresh yeast could replace the dried variety, as dry yeast isn´t as readily available here (Copenhagen, Denmark), and if so, do you know how much I should use (1 loaf recipe)?

Thx in advance,

Toni Reply

Miriam Szokovski October 16, 2017
in response to Toni:

Hi Toni,

Yes, you can use fresh yeast instead. For one loaf, instead of 7 grams dry yeast, you would need 21 grams of fresh yeast.

I hope that helps. Reply

Shira August 10, 2017

This recipe is a gem! I have been using it for very large amounts (72 cups flour) and it's full proof every time! I have shared this recipe so many of my friend. Reply

devora valley village July 21, 2017

For the two loafs, how much sugar to you use with the yeast and water? Reply

Miriam Szokovski August 3, 2017
in response to devora:

Hi Devora,
For two loaves you would use 2 teaspoons of sugar. Thanks for catching that. I've added it to the recipe. Reply

Ziva Ruth Blue Ridge Mountains May 5, 2017

Vanilla or Oil? Miriam, the instructions for the egg wash says to beat the egg with honey and vanilla and brush over the loaves. But the recipe says egg, honey and oil. Which is correct? Reply

Miriam Szokovski May 9, 2017
in response to Ziva Ruth:

Hi Ziva,

It works both ways, but I prefer vanilla. I've clarified that in the recipe. Thanks for pointing it out. Reply

Ziva Blue Ridge Mountains May 9, 2017
in response to Miriam Szokovski:

Thanks. I tried it and liked the bread recipe very much! Reply

Z. Sasson Brooklyn April 25, 2017

My new recipe!! It was Delicious, Ty! Reply

Miriam Szokovski May 9, 2017
in response to Z. Sasson:

so glad! Reply

Anonymous BC April 22, 2017

Shaping traditions Is it true that Challah in the traditional braided shape, is only for Shabbat? And that round challah is only for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? And is the small piece of challah baked with the
regular size, like a thermometer---When it is burned, the larger loaves are done? Reply

Miriam Szokovski April 25, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Hi! Great questions.

1. Challah for Shabbat is traditionally braided, but you can use braided challah at other times too.

2. Round challah is traditionally used from Rosh Hashanah until the end of Sukkot. One of the reasons for this is because a circle has no end, and we hope that the blessings G-d gives us during these auspicious days will also have no end (ie. be unlimited).

Some people stick with round challah all year because they find it easier to shape, and that's fine too.

3. We do separate a small piece of dough which is burned, but it is burned separately, and not at the same time as the challah. This is called the mitzvah of separating Challah. During Temple times a piece of dough was given to the kohanim (priests). Now that we no longer have the Temple, we separate a small piece and burn it, to remind us that everything we are given is to be used for a holy and Divine purpose. You can read more about it here:

I hope that helps! Reply

Penny AZ July 13, 2017
in response to Miriam Szokovski:

Thanks for telling how to burn challah. I cook with my nose and the smell of burning challah really throughs me off. Reply

Margaret April 21, 2017

Great recipe! My roomate is allergic to honey, so this is perfect! Reply

Zs brooklyn April 21, 2017

very enjoyable video! Reply

Anonymous Here April 21, 2017

Challah without milk is like a beautiful woman without an eye :) Reply

Anonymous Florida,USA July 21, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

If you use MILK in your challah, it becomes DAIRY; therefore, it CANNOT be served with any MEAT.

Beauty is in the EYE of the beholder. Reply

Avi April 21, 2017

No Instructions on Making the Brocha??!!! Reply

Miriam Szokovski April 25, 2017
in response to Avi:

Hi Avi,

Yes, instructions were included. Reply

M. Diane April 21, 2017

Ohhhh! Reply

Tzippy Marks-Barnett Long Beach April 20, 2017

Any suggestions for a vegan challah: no eggs, no honey? Reply

Anonymous Florida,USA July 21, 2017
in response to Tzippy Marks-Barnett:

There are vegan bread recipes online. Cakes and cookies replace with applesauce or banana... Reply

Lisa Providence, RI April 19, 2017

I always loved challah! Reply

MrsT. Morristown April 19, 2017

Bs'd It came to my attention last year, that Lubavitch does not follow the custom of Shlissel Challah. A Gutten Shabbos Reply

Cook It Kosher features recipes from Chabad.org food blogger Miriam Szokovski, as well as guest bloggers and cookbook authors. Let us know if you’d like to contribute!
Miriam SzokovskiMiriam Szokovski is the author of the historical novel Exiled Down Under, and a member of the Chabad.org editorial team. She shares her love of cooking, baking and food photography on Chabad.org’s food blog, Cook It Kosher.
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