1. Home
  2. What is Challah Bread?

What is Challah Bread?

Historically, challah bread was originally known as berches bread, until the word challah was adopted in the Middle Ages by its Jewish culture. The challah bread of today originated from the Ashkenazi Jews of Central Europe.

The challah bread is rich with symbolism in its ingredients. Traditional loaves have seeds on top that symbolize manna from Heaven, and the dough is usually flavored with oranges or spices

The recipe for challah bread varies on the region, but typically contains the base ingredients of flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, and salt. Honey often replaces the sugar, and olive oil is frequently used to replace the eggs.

Challah bread is usually shaped in a braided roll before baking. It is usually served as part of religious holidays or as part of the Jewish Shabbat meal.

The History of Challah Bread

Challah bread has a history steeped in Jewish history and lore. Challah bread was traditionally served as the Jewish-Sabbath bread and holiday bread. Originally, Challah bread meant any bread used for Jewish religious purposes.

The origins of the modern Challah are unknown, but it’s decidedly ancient; the Jewish Torah referenced the word “challah” as far back as the year 1400, but its ancestor, the berches bread, existed far earlier than that.

The Challah bread symbolizes the manna God sent from Heaven to the Jewish people during their Exodus from Egypt. The shape of Challah holds significance to the Jewish culture, for example, a three-strand braid symbolizes peace, truth, and justice.

Challah bread is also used in Jewish tradition to symbolize the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Traditionally, Rabbis place twelve loaves across from the menorah in Jewish temples. The ritual remains prominent even today.

During the Middle Ages, German Jews adopted the Challah bread as the traditional Sabbath loaves. It grew in popularity among Eastern Europeans, with Challah becoming extremely prominent in the 15th Century.

The Challah bread did not arrive in the United States until the immigration era of the 19th Century. It was most popular in the Jewish quarters of immigration centers like New York and Chicago but has since reached the entire country.

Modern Challah bread has evolved to become a sweeter, brioche-esque bread. It can be found in most grocery stores and bakeries, but true Challah bread contains no meat or dairy products so as to remain kosher, as its Jewish roots would dictate.

Ingredients in Challah Bread

Challah bread is traditionally made kosher, containing no meat or dairy at all, as Jewish culture dictates. There are two main types of Challah bread - egg challah and water challah.

Egg Challah bread usually contains the following ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Fine White Flour
  • Sugar or Honey
  • Yeast
  • Oil Salt

Water Challah bread contains much of the same ingredients as Egg Challah but replaced eggs with water.

Challah Bread Nutritional Information

In the Torah, Challah bread is more closely related to cake than bread. The ingredients and flavor of Challah are delicious, but very much like cake, too. With that in mind, it should come as a surprise that Challah bread is healthier than most European bread.

An average slice of Challah bread has only 13 grams of carbs, 1 gram of sugar, and 116 grams of sodium. An average slice of French Bread, on the other hand, has 35 grams of carbs, 400 grams of sodium, and 1 gram of sugar.

How to Make Challah Bread

The making of Challah depends largely on if it is egg or water-based, and the amount of time you have to devote to it, and any religious symbolism you choose to abide by. Challah bread is labor-intensive compared to other types of bread but well worth the effort.

Despite the variations in recipes, all Challah begins the same way. After combining the ingredients and kneading the dough, you let the Challah rise for the first proof. You then shape or braid the dough and allow it to rise for a second time.

After the second proof, you decorate the dough with any seeds or fruit desired and brush the dough with egg wash. From there, baking commences.

Challah Bread Recipes

Challah bread has many variations depending on the region and religious holidays.

As previously mentioned, one common variation is Egg Challah. This variation of Challah, traditionally considered Ashkenazi Jewish, sometimes contains saffron or raises to enhance flavor.

Sephardic Jews traditionally make the Water Challah and top it was sesame seeds or anise seeds.

An Israeli variation contains eggs, honey, and raisins, and traditionally topped with sesame seeds.

Challah FAQ's

What is challah bread?

Challah bread is a type of egg bread traditionally baked in Israel. It is often braided and sprinkled with poppy seeds before baking.

What does challah symbolize?

There are many different interpretations to what challah may symbolize. One interpretation is that challah symbolizes the manna that fell from the sky during the Israelites' journey in the desert.

How do you pronounce challah?

The word challah is typically pronounced as "khah-lah."

Why is challah braided?

Challah is braided because it is a symbol of unity. The braids represent the six days of creation, and the seventh day, when God rested.

What does challah bread taste like?

Challah bread has a rich, slightly sweet flavor and a soft, fluffy texture.

How do you make challah bread?

There are many recipes for making challah bread, but the basic ingredients include flour, water, eggs, yeast, sugar, and oil. The dough is usually kneaded by hand and then left to rise before being formed into loaves or braids and baked.

What is the difference between challah bread and other types of bread?

Challah bread is richer and sweeter than most other types of bread due to the addition of eggs and sugar. It is also traditionally baked in a round shape, which distinguishes it from other loaves of bread.

Where does challah bread come from?

The exact origins of challah bread are unknown, but it is thought to have originated in Israel.

How long has challah bread been around?

Challah bread has been made in Israel for centuries and is mentioned in the Bible. It became popular in North America in the 1970s.

Is challah bread healthy?

While challah bread is not necessarily unhealthy, it is high in calories and fat due to the eggs and oil used in the dough.

What are some common uses for challah bread?

Challah bread is often eaten as a snack or used for making sandwiches. It can also be dipped in soup or eaten with cheese.

What are some popular toppings for challah bread?

Some popular toppings for challah bread include honey, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and cinnamon sugar.

Can challah bread be frozen?

Yes, challah bread can be frozen. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a freezer bag to prevent it from drying out. Defrost at room temperature before using.

How long does challah bread last?

Challah bread will last for several days stored at room temperature in a sealed container. It can also be frozen for longer storage.

Is challah bread vegan?

No, challah bread is not vegan as it contains eggs. However, there are vegan recipes for making egg-free challah bread.

Is challah bread gluten-free?

No, challah bread is not gluten-free as it contains wheat flour. There are gluten-free recipes for making challah bread using alternative flours such as almond flour or tapioca flour.

What is the best way to store challah bread?

Challah bread can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container for several days. It can also be frozen for longer storage.

How do you reheat challah bread?

Challah bread can be reheated in the oven or microwave. To reheat in the oven, wrap the bread in foil and bake at a low temperature until warmed through. To reheat in the microwave, place the bread on a plate and heat for 30-60 seconds.

Can challah bread be made ahead of time?

Yes, challah bread can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

What are some creative ways to use challah bread?

Challah bread can be used in place of other types of bread for making sandwiches or as a base for pizza. It can also be cut into strips and used for dipping in soup or fondue.

Does challah bread need to be refrigerated?

No, challah bread does not need to be refrigerated. Store it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

What is the shelf life of challah bread?

Challah bread will last for several days stored at room temperature in a sealed container. It can also be frozen for longer storage.

Is challah bread kosher?

Yes, challah bread is kosher as it is made with Kosher ingredients.

Shane Jones

About Me

Hi, I'm Shane the person behind bakesomebread.com

I've been baking bread for about 10 years now and ever since mastering sourdough bread in 2020 I've decided to branch out into discovering every type of bread imaginable.

This website will document all of those bread types along with recipes as and when I've made them.

If you're a pizza fan check out my other site Make Some Pizza

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789-_~