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Traditional Braided Challah - The Bread we eat on Shabbat! (חַלָּה לשבת‎)

The traditional braided Challah is a slightly sweet bread that is usually baked for Friday night Shabbat dinner. It is also served for the blessing to be said over it on other Jewish holiday dinners. Here I will explain how to make a simple 3 braided challah! There are many varieties of this loaf in more elaborate designs of braiding. (see my round challah recipe for Rosh Hashanah)

When my kids were little we made a Shabbat dinner every Friday night with Challah bread for the blessing. As they started to grow older and became teenagers we got slack and eventually stopped. Going out on a Friday night became the upmost of importance to them needless to say, isn't it for all teenagers? I remember well how that feels.

Now we still do Shabbat dinners occasionally when my daughter comes over with my granddaughter for Friday night dinner and we always have it for holidays!

The best part about the Challah is that it makes a delicious french toast the next morning for breakfast. The sweetness and soft texture of challah makes a perfect combination for this so loved breakfast food that has become a staple in restaurants that serve brunch. I will be adding the recipe for the French toast in a post soon.

In fact, many brunch serving restaurants in the USA only make their french toast with Challah bread nowadays! Today the challah is also sold in most bakeries of large national supermarkets and many people are familiar with the delicious flavor and softness of this bread. Similar to brioche bread, but lighter and fluffier. Some shops call it Egg Bread since it does contain an egg. You don't even need to spread anything on it is so good by itself. The only problem is you just cannot stop eating it!

So let's get started making this wonderful braided loaf!

You will need very few ingredients: This amount makes 2 small - medium sized Challahs

500 grams bread flour or all purpose (plain) flour

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon dry instant yeast

½ tablespoon salt

¼ cup oil

1 egg

1 cup of tap water

Spray oil in a can

Sesame seeds (optional)

1 beaten egg with a little water for brushing on before baking

As a rule when mixing dough, if you find it too soft or watery, add a little flour until it thickens. If it's too dry add a little water until you get the correct consistency. Normally though, the amounts I have given worked perfectly for me using a scale for grams and regular US cup and spoon sizes. One important thing to mention is I always sift my flour before adding it to the other ingredients. I actually often sift all my dry ingredients. This will ensure a lighter and fluffier bread or pastry!

In a mixer bowl, add all dry ingredients together and mix lightly on a low setting. Add oil, egg and water and mix on low setting for about 7-8 minutes or until the dough is soft, separates from the sides of the bowl and is a little sticky. Take out the dough and shape it a little into a loose large ball.

Using spray oil, spray a bowl lightly and put your dough in. Spray the top of the dough and wrap the top with Saran Wrap. Let sit for 1½ - 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. Different kitchens will take different times for the dough to rise depending on the temperature of the room.

When dough has risen well, take out and place on a very slightly floured work space. Too much flour will make it difficult to roll. Cut dough in to 2 equal section. (2 Challahs)

Take one section and divide into 3 pieces. Form into 3 balls with the palm of your hand on top of each piece, turning your hand in circles until the dough looks like a ball. It doesn't have to be perfect circles. Set aside and do the same with the other section.

Starting with the first ball you made (I always start with the first since it's rested and will start to rise soon) roll out to a thin oval shape from the middle upwards and from the middle downwards alternating until you get the required shape. Do the same with each piece.

This is the shape you should end up with

Roll each of the oval pieces into a snake like shape.

Pinch each end to a point. Connect 3 long pieces together at one end.

Start making a simple 3 piece braid loosely. Make sure you don't braid tightly because it has to have room to expand during the second rise.

As you can see the pieces have already started to expand a little in a short amount of time

When you are done braiding pinch the ends together and fold each end under the Challah. Line a baking pan with parchment baking paper and lay the Challahs carefully on it. Spray the top lightly with oil and cover with Saran Wrap loosely for 40 minutes to 1 hour until the Challahs are almost double in size.

Heat oven to 350. Whisk egg with about a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt and brush all over the challahs not missing the sides. At this point sprinkle sesame seeds over the Challah if you're using them.

Place on the oven shelf one above the lowest and bake for about 20-30 minutes until golden on top. Lift the Challah and check the bottom, it should be a little firm and browned and that tells you it's ready!!

You won't need another Challah recipe. Dairy free, slightly sweet and very delicious.

Shabbat Shalom! שבת שלום!

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