How beautiful is it that a bread recipe exists that is over 3,500 years old? Don't believe me? It's challah bread's recipe! Challah is a traditional braided bread that is usually baked by Jewish women. The first Jewish woman to make challah was the matriarch Sarah; she would make it on Friday for the Sabbath, or Shabbat, and they say her challah bread would stay fresh for the entire week!

Jewish women typically make challah by hand, not with the help of a bread machine. The first recipe every Jewish grandmother teaches her granddaughter is her family's challah recipe, and this recipe keeps going from generation to generation. Challah is eaten on Shabbat, Jewish holidays, and celebrations, such as at weddings or Bar Mitzvahs. 

bread, brioche, bun, pretzel, dough, yeast, wheat, sweet, pastry
Lauren Ross

Jewish women all around the world look forward to making challah every week for their family and friends. Even college students just like us are involved! Many college students around the United States are involved in Challah For Hunger, an organization where they make challah and donate them to families who don't have challah for their Shabbat table. 

A typical challah recipe consists of eggs, fine white, high-gluten flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt. Many varieties of the recipe exist, though; for example, some challah recipes contain no eggs. Before it's baked, it's common to bathe it in an egg wash and sprinkle it with poppy seeds, rolled oats, or sesame seeds. You can add cinnamon, chocolate chips, Nutella, or raisins to the mix to add flavor. You can even use the same dough recipe to make cinnamon rolls or pizza, or use baked challah bread slices for french toast! It's a pretty versatile bread that can be used for other things besides a Shabbat Friday night table.

History of Challah

The word "challah" arises from the Biblical commandment of separating a piece of the challah dough before it is baked, which is still done today. This piece was given to the High Priest, the Kohen, during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. Nowadays, the piece is separated and burned in the oven. This action is called "hafrashat challah", which literally means "separating the challah". On Friday nights, every Jewish family places two challot (challah plural) on their table to remember the double portion of manna (heavenly bread) that they were given in the desert. The challah is braided to represent harmony, family, and unity.   

Is Challah Healthy? 

Depending on the ingredients that are used, challah can either be very nutritious, or high in fat, refined carbohydrates, and sugar. It is made without butter, but many recipes call for oil, which can increase the amount of fat in the bread. To make it healthier, you can make challah with whole wheat flour. Additionally, instead of white sugar, you can use brown sugar or honey. Feel free to make any modifications your heart desires!

Challah Recipe 

- Makes 2 Challot -


2 eggs

5 cups of flour

1 1/2 cup of water

1/3 cup of oil

3/4 cup of sugar

2 teaspoons of salt 

1 packet of rapid rise yeast

Susy Cohen

1. Sift the flour. 

2. Place all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, yeast) in one bowl. Mix all of them together.

3. Place all the wet ingredients (water, eggs, oil) in another bowl. Mix all of them together. 

4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Knead the dough until the texture of the dough is smooth.

5. Place a moist towel on top of the bowl with the dough and wait around two hours for the dough to rise.

6. Braid the dough like you would braid hair. There are many tutorials you can find online for a challah braided with 4, or even 6 strands, if you're interested. You may add chocolate chips, raisins, cinnamon, Nutella, etc. 

7. After you have braided the dough, leave the bread on a baking sheet for around 30 minutes so it can continue to rise.

8. Brush the challot with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds, rolled oats, or sesame seeds. 

9. Place the challot in the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit for around 30 minutes.

Susy Cohen
Susy Cohen

The delicious aroma of the challah bread will fill your home, and trust me, it's normal to have your neighbors knocking on your door for a slice of your challah. It's that good!