Classic Challah Bread

Challah is a special bread in Jewish cuisine that is braided and typically eaten on Sabbath, as well as several Jewish holidays–excluding Passover. The name “challah” refers to the act of separating a small portion of the dough, which is then set aside as a “tithe” for what is known as the “Kohen”.  The act of doing this is referred to as “hafrashat challah” (or separating the challah).  Challah is surrounded by folklore and tradition and loaded with symbolism.  Different shapes and sizes have different meanings. Braided challah is most often made with three, four, or six strands.  They are said to resemble arms intertwined, symbolizing love–or in some cases truth, peace, and justice. Challah is similar to brioche, but slightly better if you ask me.


I am posting about challah bread today for a few different reasons. First, because it’s Friday, and Shabbat celebrations happen in Jewish households tonight. And second, because today (May 4th)  is a very special day in our home: it is my oldest son’s 13th birthday, and tomorrow he will celebrate his bar mitzvah with family and close friends.  A bar mitzvah is a centuries-old Jewish tradition, a rite of passage that signifies the coming of age of a Jewish child and is a milestone in the path toward adulthood.


In celebration of my son and his special day, I have created a challah recipe.  There are many ways to make challah: sweet, salty, with seeds or dried fruit.  This is a classic version, with just a touch of sweetness to represent the joy, happiness, and love for my son.  Mazel tov, E, we could not be more proud-you got this!

Note on challah braiding: For traditional three-braid type challah like I made here, you start with three, equal-sized rolled-out dough pieces.  Pinch the three pieces together at the top and gently fold the joined tip underneath itself.  space the three strands of dough out on the work surface. Gently braid the dough folding each piece over each other and creating a tight braid without gaps as you go. It may take some practice to make the challah look uniform, but this is a lovely special bread that you will enjoy even with some imperfections.


About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

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