Dec 2
2010

Challah Bread (Braided Egg Bread) Recipe for Hanukkah

ChallahBreadFinal

Growing up in the culturally diverse city of Vancouver gave me the opportunity to witness and partake in many cultural and religious events and celebrations. From the annual festival at the Greek Orthodox church to the elaborate Chinese New Year celebrations, I reveled in learning about the various customs. Traditional costumes, dances and, oh yeah, food fed my imagination and insatiable taste buds (challah bread was one of those foods that caught my attention). Thanks to my Jewish friends, I learned (and still use) many Hebrew and Yiddish words. I try to work my personal favorites, chutzpah (audacity) and meshugenah (crazy person), into conversations as often as possible for the warped joy of seeing my friends' perplexed looks.

Inevitably, every December, my Jewish friends and I would have a debate about the virtues of Christmas versus Hanukkah. We were 10 or 11 years old, so these conversations did not revolve around pressing religious or political issues. Rather, we excitedly discussed which holiday gift-giving traditions were better for our toy-obsessed selves. Was it better to receive a pile of presents on one day or one present each night for eight nights? Which holiday foods were better – latkes and applesauce or Chocolate & Peppermint Bark cookies? Yep, we were solving the world’s problems, one holiday at a time.

ChallahBread1

Hanukkah, of course, is much more than presents and latkes. It is known as the Festival of Lights, eight days of celebration that is symbolized by the lighting of one candle each night on the nine-branched menorah. The festival celebrates the time of the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem in the second century BCE. Judah Maccabee and the other Jews involved in the rededication proclaimed a miracle when the olive oil used to light the menorah lasted for eight days, rather than just one day, which gave the people time to press more oil for the lamp. The role of olive oil in this event is why fried foods, such as potato latkes, are popular foods on Hanukkah.

In honor of the lighting of the first candle tonight, I wanted to make a recipe that might be featured in a traditional Jewish meal. The dense, slightly sweet egg bread is braided and baked to a deep golden brown. It works beautifully on its own, with a swipe of butter, but also makes a mean sandwich or batch of French toast. This recipe is straight from the pages of the December 2010 issue of Saveur Magazine. Be sure to check out their other ideas for a traditional Hanukkah feast.

The recipe:

Heat milk to 115 degrees in a small saucepan. Pour it into a large bowl and stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes to give the yeast a chance to activate. The surface should be foamy after 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together melted and cooled butter and eggs. Stir into the milk mixture.

Challah Bread Collage 1

Stir in flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 6 to 8 minutes.

Set the ball of dough in a large bowl that is greased with cooking spray or butter and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Challah Bread Collage 2

Punch down the dough, recover with plastic wrap, and let rest until the dough is slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from bowl and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 16-inch rope. Lay the dough ropes side-by-side and pinch one end of the ropes together.

Braid the pieces of dough in the following manner: Cross the left piece of dough over the middle piece. Cross the right piece of dough over what is now the new middle piece. Try to do this as evenly as possible to avoid large gaps between the dough ropes. Continue this process until you reach the end. Pinch together the ends and tuck the both ends underneath the loaf.

Challah Bread Collage 3

Place the loaf on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let the dough rest (proof) for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the mixture all over the surface of the loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake until the bread is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the bread cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving.

ChallahBread8

Other Hanukkah recipes:

Cookin’ Canuck’s Family Crockpot Applesauce
Cookin’ Canuck’s Zucchini Latkes with Yogurt Curry Sauce
Savor the Thyme’s Sweet Potato Latkes with Applesauce Sour Cream
Herbivoracious’ Bunuelos with Honey (Sephardic Hanukkah Donuts)
The Jew & the Carrot’s Cholent with Beans, Potatoes & Beef

Challah Bread for Hanukkah
Recipe from Saveur Magazine

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp milk (I used whole milk)
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg yolk
Sesame seeds

Heat milk to 115 degrees in a small saucepan. Pour it into a large bowl and stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes to give the yeast a chance to activate. The surface should be foamy after 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together melted and cooled butter and eggs. Stir into the milk mixture.Stir in flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 6 to 8 minutes.

Set the ball of dough in a large bowl that is greased with cooking spray or butter and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, recover with plastic wrap, and let rest until the dough is slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from bowl and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 16-inch rope. Lay the dough ropes side-by-side and pinch one end of the ropes together.

Braid the pieces of dough in the following manner: Cross the left piece of dough over the middle piece. Cross the right piece of dough over what is now the new middle piece. Try to do this as evenly as possible to avoid large gaps between the dough ropes. Continue this process until you reach the end. Pinch together the ends and tuck the both ends underneath the loaf.

Place the loaf on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let the dough rest (proof) for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the mixture all over the surface of the loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake until the bread is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the bread cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 1 loaf.

Printable recipe

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris December 2, 2010 at 1:28 am

Beautiful Challah! Its one of my favorite breads. Growing up in Boston, we had our go to bakery and they had the most AmAZING bagels and Challah. Miss it so!

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2 Pegasuslegend December 2, 2010 at 2:11 am

this is just beautiful looks perfect and if there was leftovers omg that french toast will be fabulous too!

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3 My Kitchen in the Rockies December 2, 2010 at 2:34 am

We are never out of Challah at our house. It is so delicious!

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4 Velva December 2, 2010 at 2:36 am

I grew up in MIami and had the opportunity to enjoy a culture that was rich in diversity. You do the celebration of Hanukkah proud with this beautiful challah.

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5 Fromagette December 2, 2010 at 3:52 am

Looks GORGEOUS and fun to make!! Oh, and I am told I'm a mensch…

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6 Cookin' Canuck December 2, 2010 at 4:01 am

Chris, I can certainly understand that. I used to have my choice of Jewish delis and bakeries, but they are few and far between here.

Claudia – Thank you! You're right – this would make a fabulous French toast.

Kitchen in the Rockies – I really need to make sure we never run out either.

Velva – Thanks so much for your kind comment.

Rachel – Love it – another Yiddish word I can work into conversation!

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7 Taylor December 2, 2010 at 5:00 am

This bread looks delicious! I have never had challah bread…I cant ever seem to find it at the store. I suppose I should attempt making it myself :)

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8 Sue December 2, 2010 at 5:34 am

I love challah bread and yours is gorgeous!!! I've made it once, but other than that I buy it at the bakery and love it for french toast and grilled Nutella sandwiches:) Sometimes I just tear off a big piece and eat it plain:) You've inspired me to make it again.

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9 Daydreamer Desserts December 2, 2010 at 5:42 am

What a beautiful looking Challah loaf! I would love to throw in "Meshugenah" every so often in a conversation however, I'm frightened I wouldn't be able to pronounce with without stumbling…LOL :)

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10 Susan December 2, 2010 at 7:42 am

I love the taste of challah bread but usually purchase it at the Jewish bakery, I wouldn't dare attempt to make it as I don't think I am that skilled in the kitchen yet but thanks for the how-to recipe.

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11 Pretend Chef December 2, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thank you for the history lesson. I appreciate and respect others religious views and love learning about their traditions. I've never had challah bread that I know of but it looks delicious!

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12 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. December 2, 2010 at 3:51 pm

awesome recipe and photo!! Happy holidays to you!

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13 foodwanderings December 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Mmm Mmm Mmmm Challa for Chanukah!! Love it!! I made it couple of times but your post encourages me to make it this week for the holiday! Thanks and could use a slice this morning with some jam! :) Shulie

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14 Eliana December 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I have never seen challah look so good! This seriously looks picture perfect.

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15 Sara@OneTribeGourmet December 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Your Challah Bread looks so beautiful! I have tried baking it too and I love the braid look with the golden crust! I also love learning about other cultures & traditions via cuisine!

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16 Susan and Abraham December 2, 2010 at 6:50 pm

What a beautiful looking Challah loaf! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

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17 ravienomnoms December 2, 2010 at 6:52 pm

That looks seriously amazing! The bread looks so pretty

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18 Jun Belen December 2, 2010 at 10:10 pm

WOW! Your Challah is gorgeous! Nicely done!

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19 Claudia December 2, 2010 at 11:43 pm

I do adore challah and (confession) have never made it! For many years it was the only bread I used for French Toast. Now I am thinking of going back to that tradition… if my bread could turn out as scrumptious as yours.

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20 Drick December 3, 2010 at 1:26 am

I am not Jewish, but to me, eight days of opening presents would excite me more than the big one… what a lovely offering to the community and nation, a perfect bread to start the celebration…

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21 briarrose December 3, 2010 at 1:48 am

Beautiful loaf! You did a lovely job.

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22 savoringeverybite December 3, 2010 at 2:04 am

Your bread looks amazing! I love to learn about different culture's food and traditions also. You wrote a wonderful post and have tempted me to try this out!

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23 Miss December 3, 2010 at 3:22 am

I've got to try this, it must be marvelous!

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24 ChefDruck December 3, 2010 at 5:09 am

Your challah is gorgeous! My MIL has tried to pass on her recipe to me many times but it never comes out pretty. I'll have to try your recipe!

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25 Jamie December 3, 2010 at 7:50 am

What a truly wonderful post! Yes, I can just hear those long-ago discussions about which of us, Jews or Christians, had it better, and I can taste all of those wonderful Hanukkah treats that I grew up eating. What a joy to be able to trade and share customs and stories and culinary delights! Your Challah is stunningly perfect and next time I make Challah I will turn to this recipe. It is beautiful! Happy Holidays! (my husband also gets a kick out of using Yiddish words like these!)

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26 marla {family fresh cooking} December 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Ha! Used to have the same debate with my girl friends. Living in NY we had a similar diversity to Vancouver. Now there is no comparisons I just celebrate every holiday that comes my way.
I remember many crispy cool days in NYC, taking a long walk & picking up a freshly baked challah bread. With each step I took a bite & it was blissful! Carbs didn't count nor show those days :) Beautiful bread Dara. xo

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27 Jenny December 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Gorgeous Dara! I need!

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28 Maria December 3, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Wow, your bread is absolutely gorgeous!

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29 danasfoodforthought December 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm

This looks great! I tried to make challah for rosh hashannah, and while it looked pretty, the texture was not right. It was very dry and not nearly dense enough. I'll have to try this recipe next time!

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30 Debi Shawcross (Table Talk) December 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I just finished a week of holiday cooking classes where I used challah bread in a savory mushroom bread pudding. —It was not homemade however~ you did a beautiful job with it!

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31 Kristen December 3, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Challah is my absolute favorite bread!! Love this!

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32 Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food December 3, 2010 at 6:22 pm

As always, your post is simply stunning, Dara. Your challah recipe looks wonderful, your instructions are crystal clear, your photos leap off the page and draw us in, and your writing is so spot on interesting and informative. Thank you.

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33 Tracy December 3, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I love challah! Especially for French toast. Yours looks lovely!

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34 Marisa December 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Your challah bread looks fanstastic. I love the soft texture of challah bread and how it almost just melts in your mouth–and the braid makes such a nice presentation.

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35 Monet December 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Hi Dara,
What a lovely post with such excellent writing and such beautiful photographs. I adore Challah bread, and I loved seeing your variation. It is wonderful to grow up in diverse communities. Such a blessing to sample different food and learn about different traditions! Thank you for sharing with me. Have a love-filled weekend!

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36 Deborah December 3, 2010 at 10:59 pm

This makes me want to get in the kitchen and make some bread!

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37 Nisrine | Dinners & Dreams December 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Wonderful challah recipe. Challah is one of my favorite breads. Thanks for sharing!

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38 Nisrine | Dinners & Dreams December 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Wonderful challah recipe. Challah is one of my favorite breads. Thanks for sharing!

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39 Victor December 3, 2010 at 11:33 pm

I never had challah in my life. According to your viewers comments, it must taste really good. This is now on my must-do list. Thanks for sharing!

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40 Lindsey December 4, 2010 at 1:57 am

I love challah bread and yours looks fantastic!

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41 Rosy December 6, 2010 at 3:58 am

Great tutorial and the bread looks amazing!

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42 C&C Cakery December 10, 2010 at 3:11 am

A lot of challah I've seen looks too dark and crisp on top. Yours have such a lovely soft golden colour – the way Bubbeh used to make it! Thank you for the recipe! Happy Hanukkah!

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43 C&C Cakery December 10, 2010 at 3:11 am

A lot of challah I've seen looks too dark and crisp on top. Yours have such a lovely soft golden colour – the way Bubbeh used to make it! Thank you for the recipe! Happy Hanukkah!

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44 Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker December 10, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I love challah! Yours looks so good!

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45 Lisa August 4, 2013 at 3:17 am

While this recipe reads as a nice braided brioche, this is not challah. Real challah never, never has any dairy in it. This is because challah is made specifically for Shabbat dinner during which meat is supposed to be served. A bread containing dairy cannot be served with meat.

Also, there is no tradition of eating challah for Channukah. Except, of course, during Shabbat. Traditional foods for Channukah are fried foods, hence the well known latke (pancake) and sufganiyot (jam busters). There is also a tradition of eating foods with cheese in them so cheesecake would be appropriate.

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