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High Holy Days Recipes

Challah (Recipe 1)

This is the challah recipe our family has used as long as anyone can remember. When I make it for the brocha at a wedding or bar/bas mitzvah, I add 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup raisins, turning it into an Austrian/German style challah, and also giving it the festive sweetness such great occasions demand, but we all prefer this non-sweet bread ordinarily. On occasion I make the dough and bake it in an ordinary bread pan to be used for the world's best French toast.

If you use a bread machine, this works just fine to be processed on the "dough" cycle and then shaped and raised as the recipe directs. Just use the ingredients in the normal order for your machine, and omit the yeast-soaking process.

If you don't have saffron (and I usually don't except, again, for the simchas) cheat with a few drops of yellow food coloring.

If you know how to braid in four strands (does anybody learn that making boondoggles at camp anymore?), use that technique; otherwise, divide your dough into four parts, and further divide one of them into three parts. Make a big braid from the three large parts, and then make a small braid from the three small parts; put the little one on the big one.

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 1/4 lukewarm water
  • 4 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 4 tablespoons poppy or sesame seeds

  1. Combine yeast, sugar, saffron, 1/4 c. water, and let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl, make a well in the flour, and drop in the eggs, oil, water, and dissolved yeast mixture.
  3. Work in well with your hands, turn out on a floured board and knead well.
  4. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for one hour.
  5. Punch the dough down, recover, and let rise until doubled (if you poke a finger into it, the dent will spring back fairly quickly).
  6. Divide into three or four parts (see comments above) and let rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Shape the loaf*.
  8. Cover again and let rise until double.
  9. Brush with the beaten egg/water mixture, sprinkle with seeds, and bake for 50 minutes in a 375 oven.

    *For Rosh Hashanah do not braid but form the challah into a round shape

Source: Esther Vail (

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