Challah is a traditional Jewish bread eaten on the Sabbath and holidays. It is traditionally braided using 3,4,5 or 6 strands of rolled dough. I originally learned to make Challah when living in Seattle, (where a loaf of challah is much more pricey than in Cape Town) taught by my sister in law Rene who is a very talented baker. Years later our son, who is allergic to eggs was born. I learned to make what Americans call ‘water challah’, as challah is usually made using egg, whereas here extra water is substituted. I love baking smells filling our home. I love to set the table with a beautiful cloth and our favourite special foods especially for Shabbat.
The dining table is compared to an altar and challah to the sacrifice. It’s so good it’s like manna. It’s always eaten up to the last crumb. I highly recommend a slice with soup.This bulk recipe makes six loaves. Freeze the extras when cooled in plastic freezer bags and defrost as needed. Just before serving, warm a loaf in the oven wrapped in foil. It will taste freshly baked.
- 3 x 10 g sachets active dry yeast
- 1½ cups sugar (if you want, you can substitute some of the sugar with honey)
- 6 cups warm water (not hot)
- 1½ cups sunflower or olive oil
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 1 x 2.5 kg pkt bread flour
- Place the yeast and sugar in a large, round, flat-bottomed bowl and cover with the water. Leave for 5–7 minutes to allow the yeast to prove.
- Add the oil and salt, and stir. Add the flour, sifting a cup or two of the packet at a time, into the bowl reserving ½ cup for dusting your hands and work surface.
- Start by mixing with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough forms. Then dust your hands with the reserved flour and knead the dough for 10–15 minutes.
- To knead the dough, push it away from you with the heel of your hand, then pick up the front of the dough with your fingers and pull it back towards your body as if you are folding it in half.
- Then repeat, pushing it away from you with the heel of your hand, until it becomes difficult to knead. Once this happens, allow the dough to rest for a few minutes; the dough will ‘relax’ and you can then knead it again until it is smooth and elastic. The purpose of kneading is to stretch out the gluten strands in the flour so that they stick together better, and trap the air bubbles created by the yeast, which gives you a lighter, fluffier bread.
- Put the dough into the bowl and cover it with a damp dish cloth or towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about 30 -45 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size. On a cold day, the dough will take much longer to rise around 60-75 minutes.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180 °C. Oil or lightly dust a baking tray with flour. Once risen, punch down the dough in the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead again. Break off an olive sized piece of dough and make the “hafrashat challah” blessing. Set aside this piece.
- Using a bread knife, divide the dough by cutting it in half and then into thirds – making 6 equal-sized pieces. Then divide each piece again into 3 or 4. Roll each small piece into a ‘snake’ and braid. Don’t forget to tuck the ends under. Place onto the prepared baking tray.
- When you have braided all 6 loaves, use a clean paint brush or pastry brush to brush each loaf with a little water and leave to rise for 10–15 minutes. Bake for 30–35 minutes until the tops are lightly browned.
Egg Free; Dairy Free; Nut Free | Makes 6 loaves
I keep an empty spice container filled with flour handy for sprinkling surfaces or my hands with extra flour as needed. A spray bottle filled with water is also a useful tool. I use it to mist the inside of the oven before baking. This ensures an even-baked crust. Another empty spice bottle can be filled with equal amounts of cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle onto challah before baking.
Tammi and her husband Larry, are the proud parents of 3 beautiful sons aged 11,14 and 15 and live in Cape Town, South Africa. Tammi is the author of two books "Cooking for an Allergy-Free Lifestyle" and Cooking for A Healthy Lifestyle due out later In 2015. Her recipes were developed for her family and articles included researched for the knowledge of how to feed them delicious healthy and safe foods that don't take long to prepare and use affordable ingredients. In Tammi's second book all recipes are Gluten-Free, they are also LCHF friendly, SCD friendly (specific carbohydrate diet -for people with colitis and chrons) as well as being Kosher. Besides her most important job of being a wife and mother, as well as being an author and chef, Tammi is employed as the social media and website manager for "Metal Windows" owned by Larry and his father.