Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated each autumn with feasts of challah, honey-dipped apples and pomegranates and more; these treats bring well wishes for a sweet year to come. Challah is an enriched yeast bread that makes wonderful toast with jam, as a base for French toast or simply eaten warm from the oven with honey. There are many different shapes and braiding techniques for challah, including the traditional rounds for Rosh Hashanah. Here, I describe a simple three-strand braid that’s good for beginners. After dividing the dough into three strands, you braid it just like you would hair: Left strand to center, right strand to center and so on until you’re finished. Challah is often sprinkled with seeds before baking, like sesame, but I enjoy this seedless version as is.
Rosemary-Olive Oil Challah
Be sure to buy the correct yeast – instant rapid-rise, not active dry. Also pay close attention to the temperature of your water: Too hot and the yeast dies, too cool and it will never proof.
Yields | 1 loaf |
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream
- 2 cups plus 1 Tbsp bread flour
- 1½ tsp instant rapid-rise yeast
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
- ½ cup water, heated to 120°F to 130°F
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
| Preparation – Egg Wash | In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg and heavy cream until combined; refrigerate until ready to use.
| Preparation – Challah Dough | In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour, yeast, salt and rosemary; set aside. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, add warm water, egg yolks, honey and olive oil. Top with dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 2 minutes, then increase speed to medium for 4 minutes. Form finished dough into a rectangle approximately 6 inches wide by 9 inches long. Cut into 3 long strands, 2-by-9-inches. Cover dough with a tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Roll each dough strand into a 15-inch log. Pinch 3 strands together at the top, then begin braiding: Left strand to center, right strand to center and so on, repeating until dough is fully braided. Pinch the end of the strands together and fold both pinched ends underneath loaf. Transfer challah to parchment paper-lined sheet tray and brush entire loaf with about half of egg wash, taking care not to let it pool too much in the crevices of the braid. Proof at room temperature for 1 hour until nearly doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400°F.
Once challah has doubled in size, brush loaf with egg wash once more. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until dark, golden brown; serve with fresh jam and honey.