Like people, bread comes in many shapes, sizes and colors. There's white, rye, whole wheat, sourdough and the list goes on. However, very few are as versatile—or as tasty—as challah. Challah is a Jewish bread traditionally made with eggs, flour, water, sugar, yeast and salt. The recipe is simple, but the result has a truly unique flavor that is somehow addictive.

I came to college having little to no association with challah. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I could not allow this ignorance to continue. Having joined a group called Challah for Hunger at UVA, I arrived my first day not expecting to be handed a giant mixing bowl and given instructions to make an XXL recipe for challah—but that is indeed what happened.

With that, let's explore my challah journey and prove to you all that challah is the superior form of bread.

The Baking Process

meat, chicken, pork, vegetable
Kara Braith

Once the dough is made, it is kneaded for several minutes, until you can pull it thin and see a translucent "window." This indicates that the gluten structure has properly developed. At this point, the dough goes into the refrigerator to rise.

The real fun begins with the braiding. As a braided bread, making challah is not just a chore, it's a fun experience and a great activity to make new friends. Forming the perfect loaf can truly be a form of art.

flour, dough, bread, wheat, bun, pastry, cereal, bread rolls
Kara Braith

The Versatility

If you're still not convinced to start making challah immediately, hopefully the finished product will convince you. At Challah for Hunger, we have four flavors every week—plain, cinnamon sugar, chocolate chip, and garlic rosemary—and then a different "special" flavor every week. These have included flavors like sundried tomato basil, pumpkin chocolate chip, everything bagel, mocha, raspberry chocolate, s'mores and many, many more.

The flavors are always an adventure because you never quite know how they'll turn out. Sometimes the baked loaves can look messy, but they are always, always delicious. Birthday cake is a personal favorite—Funfetti lovers, this one's for you.

ice, ice cream, cream, chocolate
Kara Braith

Some of the flavors are more labor-intensive than others; "filled" flavors require an extra step and added difficulty, while others simply include lots of ingredients to produce the desired taste. I have always found it amazing how the same basic recipe, with merely a few additions can become such vastly different breads.

Cinnamon sugar and garlic rosemary? Totally NOT the same thing. And yet, the recipe is only changed by three or four ingredients. How's that for convenience?

cookie, chocolate, dough, truffle, sweet, pastry
Kara Braith

The Community Benefits

In addition to tasting great and providing hours of baking festivities, Challah for Hunger also works for a great cause. The proceeds go to the local Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, and to Mazon, a Jewish organization that fights the systematic causes of hunger in society. Each loaf costs only $4-$5, and every cent goes to charity.

I can testify from personal experience that buying a loaf and telling yourself you'll save it for breakfast for the rest of the week, only to consume the whole thing for dinner that night, is definitely the way to go. 

Need More Challah?

french toast, strawberry, toast, sweet, cake, pancake
Sara Kresloff

Looking to be more adventurous? Spoon's got you covered. A plain loaf of challah can be transformed into French toast (or a French toast bake if you're feeling fancy), bread pudding, or it can become the bread for a sweet-and-savory sandwich. There is also an egg-free option, so vegans can get their challah fix, too.

So, if you're ever looking for something fun to do, want to expand your cooking horizons, simply enjoy carbs (no shame), or want to "bake" a difference, consider making some challah for yourself—or even better, joining a chapter of Challah for Hunger at your university. Helping others and helping your stomach; it doesn't get any better than that.