Sep 21

Amazing Rosh Hashanah challah

On Rosh Hashanah, sweet foods traditionally grace the holiday table. The challah, or special egg bread, served on Rosh Hashanah is no exception. And there is nothing more heavenly then warm, home-baked challah dipped in honey, especially when it also contains luscious golden raisins.

rosh hashanah challah3If you’ve never made challah or any other type of bread, now is the time to try it. It’s also a great kids’ project, because your children can help you shape the loaves into the traditional holiday rounds that symbolize a perfect year to come.

To simplify your bread baking, use instant dried yeast, which doesn’t require proofing. I purchase a brand that comes in a vacuum pack and is found on a store shelf with other baking items. After opening the package you must store the yeast in a container in the refrigerator.

The recipe below works well with all types of flour, from white to different degrees of whole wheat. But it is totally amazing when you use white spelt flour. Because my daughter is allergic to wheat, we’ve evolved different spelt-appropriate recipes for her. This challah recipe, when made with white spelt flour, is so delicious that many of our Sabbath guests prefer it over regular wheat challah.

If Rosh Hashanah is not your holiday, this makes several delicious loaves of bread or wonderful dinner rolls for the cold months ahead, or for any time of year.

For Rosh Hashanah, many people add raisins to their challah. In the recipe below, I add the raisins directly to the dough. But you can press the raisins into strands of kneaded dough when you are shaping the loaves. If you are using whole wheat flour, you should cut down on the amount of flour by 1/2 cup, then add more flour as needed. When using whole spelt flour, you may need to add extra flour because the dough will be stickier.


9 cups wheat (any type) or white spelt flour, sifted
1/2 cup sugar (demerara or raw cane recommended)
2 tbsp. instant dried yeast
1 tbsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 cups lukewarm water
1/2 – 1 cup golden raisins (optional)

Hand method

In an oversized bowl, mix flour and sugar, stirring well. Add yeast and mix well. Add salt, and mix well again.

In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, oil, and water. Stir into dry ingredients and raisins and mix well.

Place on floured board or tabletop and knead until dough becomes elastic and springs back after each fold, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board or to your hands.

Electric mixture method

Place 3 cups lukewarm water and 2 tbsp. sugar in a large bowl of electric mixer fitted with dough hook, and mix well. Add yeast and let sit 10 minutes or until dissolved. Add oil and eggs and mix well.

Add remaining sugar, half of flour, and salt. Mix well. Slowly mix in remaining flour and raisins and beat well for several minutes until well kneaded. Add additional flour as needed.

Rising and shaping

After dough is well kneaded, oil the bowl well. Place dough back in bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic. Let rise away from cold or drafts for at least a few hours, until double in bulk. The amount of time it takes the dough to rise will depend on the temperature of the room and of the water you used in the dough. Push dough down. Shape into rounds and place well apart on baking sheets lined with baking parchment to allow for expansion of dough while baking.

Brush rounds with beaten egg mixed with a little water and 1 tsp. honey. Let rise another half hour or more, then bake in a preheated 350° F (180° C) oven for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until nicely brown on top.