Challah is a versatile bread that brings sweetness in many different varieties.
Last month saw the beginning of the Jewish New Year known as Rosh Hashanah. Hebrew for "head of the year" or "first of the year", Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest days for Jewish people. While prayer and liturgy is the focus of this holiday, it is also a time for feasting.
One of the baked goods most commonly consumed during this time, and throughout the rest of the year, is challah. This special braided bread is a delicious addition to any feast, and is commonly eaten with honey to signify the wish for a sweet year.
Challah can be very versatile. Many will consume it on its own, but it can also be great for sandwiches or any other food in which bread plays a role. The production can be intensive, but it’s relatively inexpensive to make and the end result is a sweet delicacy that provides instant comfort to consumers.
It is made by mixing flour and eggs, which is then combined with yeast, sugar, and salt before being put into a mixer to make dough. Another form is water challah, made without eggs. Small portions of the dough are laid out to rise. Each portion is rolled into rope-like strands and swirled into a circle, shaping round challah, a symbol of the cycle of life.
The versatility of challah extends into different flavors. For instance, Bibi’s Bakery & Café in Los Angeles offers it in five flavors on any given week. Labeling itself as an authentic taste of Israel in Southern California, Bibi’s bakes challah in flavors such as whole wheat and chocolate chip, but the challahs baked during holy days are much sweeter due to the inclusion of honey and apples.
According to the Jewish Journal, the Jewish restaurant ‘Got Kosher?’, another Los Angeles-based establishment, puts an interesting spin on traditional challah. The bakers dip it in a pretzel bath to give it an updated look and taste. The success of this new version has allowed them to experiment even further, now offering challah with inclusions like nuts, raisins, and dried fruits. “I wanted to show people that challah can have more than just bread,” says ‘Got Kosher?’ owner Alain Cohen.
Moist and chewy, well done challah is great for all times of the year. Many will use it in treats such as bread pudding and French toast, while others will simply continue to enjoy a twisted loaf for its inherent sweetness.