Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Jewish New Year, is a time for celebration! According to the Talmudic teachings, Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of G-d’s reaction of the world and is a time to seek repentance. Over time, many food customs have developed for this High Holy Day and when most people think of Rosh Hashanah you think of challah!
Challah loaves are one of the most recognizable food symbols of the holiday. During this High Holy Day, challah loaves are shaped into rounds, spirals (ladders) or birds. These shapes are symbolic of the cycle of life, hope that prayers rise to heaven, and the continuity of creation. Depending on preference and family recipes, sweet fruits such as raisins or even honey are added to the loaves to make them extra sweet. Here are some challah recipes for you to try.
2 ounces fresh yeast
5 pounds sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons coarse salt
5 egg yolks
4 1/4 cups warm water
1 egg, beaten
Sesame or poppy seeds
First dissolve the yeast in a cup of warm water and add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir the yeast until bubbles rise. Pour the sugar, oil, yolks, water, and 2/3 of your 5 pound bag of flour into your large mixer. Add the activated yeast. Set the machine on medium speed and mix the ingredients. As the dough begins to form carefully add the remaining flour. Mix the dough until properly blended in your mixer. This may take about 12-13 minutes.
Once the dough is formed, transfer it into a well greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic and let your dough rise until the dough doubles in bulk. This may take 2 to 3 hours.
After the dough has properly risen, separate the challah so that you can form the dough. After you have formed your challahs allow them to rise for 20 minutes in greased baking pans. Glaze your challah loaves by brushing them with your beaten egg yolks and sprinkling with poppy or sesame seeds.
Preheat your oven to 400° F for about fifteen minutes. After that, place loaves in oven and lower temperature to 350° F. Bake your loaves for about 30 to 45 minutes.
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 can (about 10.5 ounces) condensed chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
9 cups all-purpose flour
Heat water in a sauce pan adding broth. Once warm add broth mixture into a bowl, add yeast. Mix until the yeast is dissolved. To your bowl, add salt, sugar, oil and 3 of your 4 eggs. Wisk the mixture, before gradually adding your flour. Continue to mix the ingredients until your dough is formed.
Once ready, knead your dough until smooth. Add your dough to a greased (or oiled) bowl and roll the dough in the bowl until it is coated. Cover the dough in your bowl and let it sit until the dough doubles in bulk. This may take about 1 ½ hours.
Punch down the dough. Divide and shape the loaf. Take your remaining egg and beat it. Brush the loaves with the egg. Cover and let rise in a warm place for1 hour or until the loaves are doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Bake your loaf until golden grown. Once done, remove from baking pan or sheets and let cool.
Honey and Raisin Challah
4 cups warm water
2 Tbsps. dry yeast
½ cup oil
½ cup honey
2 cups raisins (or less, to taste)
14 to 15 cups flour
1 Tbsp. coarse kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
Poppy or sesame seeds
Activate yeast by adding water and sugar. Once activated, stir in yeast, eggs, honey, oil and raisins. Add about seven to eight cups of flour and mix well.
Let mixture rest 45 minutes to 1 hour . This will be your first rising. Once done, add the remaining 7 cups of flour and salt. Mix thoroughly and then need dough on a floured board. Let the dough rise for another hour.
Divide the challah dough and say a blessing. Once loaves are shaped, place challah in greased pans and let rise 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Beat your egg and brush tops of loaves and garnish with either poppy or sesame seeds. Maintain oven temperature and bake loaves for about 45 minutes to an hour for loaves. If you opt to make rolls instead, bake for about 30 minutes. Once nicely golden brown, remove from pans and cool on racks. This recipe should yield about 6 loaves.
Variations: You can add more raisins depending on your tastes. Adding a mixture of both white and brown raisins will give your challah extra sweetness. If you like more of a honey flavor add about ¼ cup more honey and cut back on the raisins. For those folks allergic to eggs, consider substitutes.
Shaping Your Challah
First separate about three hands full of dough. Then, divide the remaining dough into 3 equal parts. Roll each of these three parts into a rope with tapered ends. Start coiling the dough ropes- leaving no hole in the center. Tuck the end of the dough rope coil under. Place in 9″ round spring form pan.
With the handfuls of remaining dough, make ladder garnishes to be placed on top of your challah rolls. Shape this remaining dough into six pencil thin ropes. From these dough ropes, make your ladders- 4 inch long sides and 4 2″ long rungs. Fasten securely to top center of each challah.
To make a six-braided challah, divide your dough into 6 parts. Roll each part into a foot long dough rope. Connect the dough ropes at the top and place two each on the right, center and left. You will braid the loaf using intricate layer similar to macramé and lattice crust methods. Pull the center left rope up and the leave the center right down. Grab the inner center right rope and the inner left rope and pull the outer left rope under. Reverse the move by pulling the center left rope up and lay the center right strand down and then grab the center left rope and the inner right rope and pull the outer right rope under. Next, pull the center left strand down and the center right strand up and grab the inner center left and the inner left and pull the outer left strand under. Reverse this move in a similar fashion. Repeat these steps until the loaf is braided. Tuck the ends under the challah.
To make the less complicated three-braided challah, divide a large piece of dough into 4 parts. Using three parts roll out 12 inch dough ropes. With that fourth part, divide it in threes and roll out three smaller dough ropes. Braid the larger dough ropes as you would a basic braid of hair. Do the same with the smaller dough ropes. You should have one large braided challah and one smaller braided challah. Place the smaller challah on the top center of the larger challah.
Other thoughts and blessings
Once you have made your challah dough, it is customary to say a blessing. In determining whether you should separate challah with a blessing or without a blessing, you must consider how much flower is used. In the cases of these recipes, except the broth challah, the recipes should be separated with a blessing.
In offering a blessing with the separation of the challah, prayers for the family and loved ones are most appropriate. Once these blessings are offered, your challah can be shaped and baked. One sample blessing comes from the book of Esekiel. “May it be Your will, our G-d, the G-d of our Fathers, that You bless our dough, as You blessed the dough of our Mothers, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. And may we be blessed as in the verse: “You shall give the first yield of your dough to the kohen to make a blessing rest upon your home.“ Another great blessing comes from Psalms 90:17, and reads “[m]ay the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us; establish for us the work of our hands; establish the work of our hands.”
Rosh Hashanah is more than about food, but the symbolism of the High Holy Day. While called the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah is actually a day of remembrance and judgment. Jewish people around the world celebrate this day with great food and hope for the coming year.
For more challah or other traditional Rosh Hashanah foods, check out the following websites: