WHAT EXACTLY IS CHALLAH BREAD?
Challah is a special braided bread consumed on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays.
According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and Saturday dinner) and two meals for each holiday (dinner the evening of the holiday and lunch the following day) each begin with two complete loaves of challah. This two loaves commemorate the manna that fell from the heavens to feed the Israelites as they wandered in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.
According to the legend, manna did not fall on Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion would fall the day before.
By tradition, each single loaf loaf of challah is woven from six ropes of dough. The braided loaf is then brushed with an egg wash before baking, which adds a golden sheen. Together, both loaves have twelve strands, which represent the 12 tribes of Israel.
Traditional challah is a sweet, eggy bread mixed from eggs (often five of them), fine white flour, water, sugar, yeast, and salt.
Honey or molasses can be substituted as a sweetener.
Some bakers add raisins to the dough, and/or sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds on top of the loaf for added flavor.
To accommodate contemporary dietary needs, modern recipes can be eggless or gluten free (made with oat flour), or can be made with whole wheat flour.
Unlike brioche, another sweet, eggy bread, challah is usually parve, containing no butter or milk.
HOW TO PRONOUNCE “CHALLAH”
It is not “hollah.” The “ch” at the beginning of the word is a gutteral sound most familiar as the German “ach,” or the American expression of disgust, “yech.”
Here’s the actual pronunciation in an audio file (just click).