Braiding is optional with challah—it’s just as delicious as a loaf or a round.
Honey Challah Recipe
For The Holidays, For French Toast, Or Just Because It’s Delicious
Whether for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, or the dinner before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement when Jews fast, a beautiful honey challah is one of the treats of the holiday season. Pure honey sets this recipe apart, ensuring a moist texture and beautiful golden brown color. It’s simply splendid for French toast or for brunch anytime: If you’re invited as a guest, make everyone happy and bring a loaf or two.
Challah is actually the traditional Jewish Sabbath bread, mentioned in the Bible. Originally used by the temple priests in ceremonial worship, it made a transition to home observation in the early centuries of the Common Era. The Sabbath bread of these early times was white, sweet and round.
The braided challah developed around the 15th century in eastern Europe. Braided breads were made through central Europe and the Slavic countries, and are made as special holiday breads for Easter celebrations. In the 17th century, other shapes developed, including a crown shape for Rosh Hashanah (representing the King of Kings, Creator of the World) and a bird-shaped challah for before Yom Kippur (inspired by Isaiah 31:5 where a hovering bird is a symbol of divine protection). There are dreidel- and menorah-shaped challahs for Chanukah, challahs in the shape of the Hebrew letter shin (for “Almighty”), fish, hearts and other shapes that stem from the artistry of bakers.
While this challah is made with honey, it’s delicious with honey drizzled on it as well. See our Honey Section for information and reviews about artisan honey—so much more complex and wonderful than the bland “clover” and “wildflower” supermarket honeys that are blends of many different types of honeys, imported as a commodity (read: the cheapest price is paid for them) from Argentina and China and pasteurized to archive a long shelf life, which further removes flavor. Get to know your local beekeepers and their raw honeys (find them at HoneyLocator.com), and you’ll start to look for reasons to use their wonderful products, from basswood to Tupelo.
Maybe you’ll even bake a challah or two each Friday, as Jewish mothers have done for millennia. There will be enough left to make into French toast for Sunday brunch. You can drizzle that French toast with honey as well as maple syrup!
Yield: 2 loaves
- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- ½ ounce rapid-rising yeast
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups hot water
- ½ cup pure honey
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Glaze (see recipe below)
- Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)
- Combine the flours in large bowl; remove 1 cup and set aside. Add yeast and salt to remaining flour in bowl.
- Combine the water, honey and butter in medium bowl; stir until butter melts. Stir the warm liquids into the flour mixture; add the eggs.
- Knead the dough on a lightly-floured board for 7 to 10 minutes, adding as much of the reserved flour as necessary to form a smooth, elastic dough. Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Halve the dough and shape it into balls. Place them on greased cookie sheets. Cover; let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until they have doubled in size.
- Brush the loaves with the glaze made by beating 1 egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water.
- Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes or until brown. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
- If you want to braid the challah, here is a video demonstration.
Recipe courtesy of the National Honey Board. Additional material
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