It’s been about two months since I started baking bread at home. That’s right, I don’t buy supermarket bread ever again!
One reason is that I love to know what I’m eating, pure healthy bread made from flour (organic would be even better), yeast, salt, maybe egg and spices depending on the type of bread. Nothing chemical, artificial or any preservatives!! I have found that the bread I bake at home lasts so much better as well, sometimes until one week, whereas store bought ones usually become stale after 2 days. Also, it’s so much fun when you see your handmade dough rise and become golden! Trust me, if you haven’t baked bread at home before, you simply must try it! I’m sure you’ll love it 😉
Now, the bread you see today is called Challah which in Jewish means “loaf” (plural: challot). It is a very traditional bread, eaten during Sabbath (Friday afternoon to Saturday evening meals) and holidays and can be made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt (1).
Challah bread can be in form of a wreath or a braided loaf like the one I’ve made here. This type of braided Challah is made up of 4 braids and since these braids look like arms intertwined, it actually symbolises love (2).
In Jewish tradition, Challah is a symbol of the gifts (manna) send by God to Jews in the dessert after their Exodus from Egypt. These manna were covered in dew in the morning and were sent from heavens in double portion. Hence, two challot in a decorative cloth (representing the dew) are placed at the table as a reminder(1).
It is still a Jewish tradition to separate a small part of the dough before baking and burn it, and bake the rest of the dough to make it a blessing. The burnt piece represents the sacrifice that was presented to a priest in ancient times, and nowadays it is just burnt off as a mitzvah (1).
So now that you know the story behind this beautiful bread, here’s the recipe!
- 2 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 4 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk for glazing
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 550g string white bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1. Pour 250 ml of water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Set 4 tablespoons aside in a bowl to cool to lukewarm.
2. Sprinkle the yeast in the bowl with 4 tablespoons of water, let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Add the oil and sugar to the water in the saucepan.
4. Bring to boil to dissolve, then let cool to lukewarm.
5. In another larger bowl, beat the 2 eggs until fluffy.
6. Add the water from saucepan, plus yeast mixture, plus the salt to the eggs and stir.
7. Add the flour gradually: first add half, incorporate, then add the rest and mix to combine.
8-9. Turn the sticky dough to a floured surface and knead for 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
10. Grease a large bowl, then place the dough in it.
11-12. Cover with cling film or tea towel and let rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until it doubles in size.
Now the fun part of braiding starts! 😀
13. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knock it back.
18. Cover with a tea towel and let rise again for 45 minutes.
Also, when you cut this bread, the slices look like little clouds!! 😀