Round Challah for Rosh Hashanah

L'Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year to all - in honor of the Jewish New Year, beginning tonight at sundown, I'm sharing with you perhaps the tastiest (and most versatile) of bread recipes. That's right, the legendary Challah.

Many people, Jews and non-Jews alike, are familiar with its delicious fluffy texture, and gorgeous braided appearance; but perhaps are unfamiliar with its significance to this holiday. Its shape - round at this time of year, rather than its usual loaf-shape, is symbolic of the cyclical nature of a year. Another thing about Challah that many people may not be aware of is how truly easy it is to make. Check out the oh-so-simple recipe below:

To begin, simply mix a packet (about 2 teaspoons) of instant yeast in a cup of lukewarm water, with a pinch of sugar. While that is activating, whisk together 4 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large bowl. Form a well in the middle and pour into it 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and 2 large eggs, plus one yolk (save the white for the egg wash... that comes later.) Start slowly mixing them together, using a fork, and as the flour starts to combine, pour your (now foamy) yeast mixture into the mix. Combine until a shaggy, tacky dough forms, and dump out onto a floured surface to knead for a few minutes. Once it is a smooth ball, place it in an oiled bowl to rise for a couple hours. When doubled in size, punch the dough down and dump out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough in half, and set one half aside - did I mention this recipe makes 2 loaves?? To braid into a circular shape - follow along in the infographic below:

(In other words: cut into 4 even pieces, roll those pieces into long ropes, make a tic-tac-toe shape with them - overlapping as shown, and then cross one over another clockwise, then one over another counterclockwise, and vice versa until the ends are too short... at which point, tuck them underneath, and transfer your beautiful braided loaf to a parchment-lined baking sheet.) 

Then, brush your reserved egg white over the tops of your loaves, and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired. Pop them into a 330 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through.

Once they're cooled (if you can wait that long) slice and top with whatever your heart desires. Truly. Challah is so versatile. I'm eating mine toasted with cream cheese, pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of honey (pomegranate and honey are also significant to the holiday, FYI). It makes phenomenal french toast, grilled cheeses, even BLTs - sacrilege, I know. But seriously. Get to baking. You still have a couple days to celebrate. Go for it - and happy new year! x