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Tips for Making a Fancy Challah Worthy of a New Year Celebration

October  3, 2016

L'shanah tovah! Welcome to the year 5777!

Even if you aren't celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I advise you still listen to the shofar partake in loaves of feathery, eggy, lightly-sweet, want-to-rest-your-face-in-it challah.

But not just any challah. For a celebratory, once-a-year event, make your loaves fancier than they've ever been before (Rosh Hashanah is like the challah red carpet!)

The primary reason that this is my (second) favorite Jewish holiday. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Start with your favorite challah recipe (Jessica Fechtor's Five-Fold is mine: It takes 24 hours but is mostly hands-off! The dough is so airy you can see the bubbles even after it's braided, so soft it feels like a baby's cheek).

Once you're ready to shape...

1) Fill your challah. Rachael Strecher, who has swiftly earned the title of (Not)Recipes' Challah Queen, rolls out part of the dough with a pin, spreads it with fillings (a purée of slow-roasted tomatoes, butter, and walnuts; roasted garlic; pesto, too!), and reshapes it into a log that's then braided. Read more on that technique here.

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(Pssst: An apple butter and honey filling might be particularly appropriate for the holiday!)

Rachael Strecher
Rachael Strecher
Another #challah experiment! Put slow roasted tomatoes, their juice and softened butter in a food processor, mix with chopped toasted walnuts. Spread onto challah dough (for a great technique check out Deb Perleman's Rosh Hashanah Challah). #dinner #bread

2) Pretzelize it. After Rachael fills and braids the challah, she makes it into a pretzel by dipping it into a lye solution (why, naturally!). Molly Yeh has experimented with the pretzel-challah hybrid, too.

Rachael Strecher
Rachael Strecher
We take our #challah pretty seriously. We like to use Deb Perleman's fig, sea salt and olive oil method of rolling the filling into each strand and take it in whatever direction we feel like. This time that meant another one with roasted garlic. Those two bronzed beauties are pretzeled. 😎 #roshhashanah #pretzeleverything #shanahtova

If you're scared of using lye, we know another ingredient that can do the same trick—and it's already in your pantry!

3) Bejewel it. And by that we mean add seeds: Press seeds into the crust before you bake it (and after you apply an egg or egg white wash). Favorites include poppy, sesame, nigella, pumpkin, sunflower, even flax! Rolled oats work, too. I would not recommend chia seeds.

Senem Sanli
Senem Sanli
With Pumpkin seeds and ancient seeds challah bread at a different level!!!

4) Dutch Crunch it. Always an option! Particularly great if you're looking for a challah with a "San Francisco vibe." Read more about how to give your challah a crunchy, spotty topping below.

5) Repurpose it! If you have leftover challah dough (or if you've had the foresight to double the batch), experiment!

  • All Ingredients Equal lets her dough rise overnight, then shapes it into balls, rolls them in cinnamon-sugar, and bakes it in a loaf pan, monkey-bread style.
All Ingredients Equal
All Ingredients Equal
New obsession: making a simple enriched dough (like brioche or challah or pan de mie) and then after its overnight rise, rolling it into a snake then making little baby rolls. I coated the 16 rolls cinnamon sugar (after dipping the bread in water the the sugar would adhere more) and put them all to rise once more in a pan with walnuts before baking it off! A delicious cross between monkey bread and cinnamon bread. I'm looking forward to the French toast to come!
  • Tom Hirschfeld turned his challah dough (made with yolks only and butter instead of oil) into Easter rolls. Talk about religious harmony!
Easter Rolls. I decided to use challah dough for these rolls. Most challah recipes call for egg and oil. I use yolks only and instead of oil I add softened butter. It makes the dough more like brioche but lighter. A good size roll to me is about 1 oz. or 30g. #baking #bread #rolls #dinner #norecipe #healthy
Cinnamon/Nutella bread/rolls I made at Christmas. I used my standby challah recipe for the dough, and found the assembly instructions somewhere on food52. It might have been a savory recipe though.

What should you do with leftover challah the next day?

Well what kind of question is that?

This version gets a brown sugar-cinnamon crust post soaking, which makes for an even more caramelized crust:

All Ingredients Equal
All Ingredients Equal
Brown sugar crusted challah French toast. Thick slices of bread in a custard of vanilla bean paste, milk, cream, eggs and cinnamon. Soak for at least 10 minutes and then rub cinnamon-brown sugar mixture on the soaked bread right before cooking.

And we've got lots of other ideas, too!

What's your favorite way to consume challah? That is, after you've eaten half the loaf? Tell us in the comments!

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1 Comment

GsR October 16, 2016
Realize it's a bit late but nuts are generally not eaten on rosh hashannah. And many do not eat them until after you kippur.