By Yiskah Fantl
The mitzvah of challah is actually the separation of a smaller piece of dough from the dough. God spoke to Moshe saying, “And it will be when you eat of the bread of the land, you should bring an offering to G-d. The first of your kneading bowl you shall donate to G-d as an offering” (Numbers 15:19-20).
We take a portion of the challah after it as risen before we divide it. We make a bracha (blessing) and this piece that we take is “CHALLAH.” We say, “This is Challah.” This piece used to be given to the Kohanim, the priests, but because the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) is not yet standing we burn this piece of challah so that it cannot be eaten and it is our gift to God.
To be able to separate challah from the dough with a blessing it needs to meet these requirements:
1. One needs to use at least 12 cups of flour from one of the five grains; barley, rye, oat, wheat, or spelt
2. Water needs to be the primary liquid in the dough
After separating the challah from the dough with the proper blessing, this is yet another important time to pray. Many women spend a lot of time praying to God right after they have separated their challah, because it is said that the gates of heaven are opened at this time for your prayers.
After we have taken off our piece of challah and set it aside to be burned later, and prayed, we then shape our loaves. Challahs are usually braided with three or six strands. After they are shaped, we then brush them with an egg wash and bake them.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the aroma and blessing that fills your home!
How do I store my challah?
Like most people your family will not eat enough challah in one Shabbat that a recipe large enough to do the mitzvah of taking challah calls for. Once your challahs have completely cooled wrap each challah in heavy duty foil and then put them into freezer bags, and then into the freezer. When you need them take the desired amount out, about two hours before your meal to defrost, and then place in the oven to warm at a low temperature.
I see people use special challah pans that make their challahs look uniform. Where do I get these?
These special challah pans that are used to help shape the loaf can be found at our local party supply store, Blums, on Cedar Road. They have many sizes available, disposable, and reusable.
I’ve gone to Shabbat meals and there was some sort of topping on the challah. What is that and when do I put that on?
There are many varieties of challah topping from sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sweet crumble, and cinnamon sugar.
My personal favorite is taking minced garlic, some oil, and salt mixing it in a bowl and brushing it on top of the challahs immediately after taking them out of the oven.
Sweet crumble can also be added right before challahs are to go in the oven.
Crumble Topping for Challah
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup oil
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
Corn flake crumbs (optional)
Mix well will fingers until crumble constancy formed; if too wet, all more flour.
I have two recipes I use on a regular basis. One of which is from the woman that taught me everything I know about making challah, so moment to express my gratitude to Rebbetzin Sarah Deitsch.
Challah 1 (this recipe doesn’t require a mixer)
3 T yeast
4 cups warm water
Let the yeast activate, this is calling proofing. Once the yeast is bubbly, you know it is working and can continue adding the rest of the ingredients.
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 (5lb) bag minus 2 cups
1 ½ T salt (add this last)
Knead knead knead! Take challah, braid, and bake!
Challah 2 (this recipe requires a mixer)
6 packets of yeast/4.5 T
1 cup warm water
3 T sugar
½ 5lb bag of flour
3 3/4 cups seltzer and mix
2 cups of sugar
¾ cup oil
2 egg yolks
Rest of the flour
2 T salt
Mix for 15 minutes
I hope you come to enjoy and love this mitzvah as much as I do!
Yiskah grew up in Worthington Ohio and attending the Ohio State University. She met her husband at the OSU Chabad house. After graduating from Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya seminary in Jerusalem, she moved to Cleveland with her husband. She currently works at Mosdos and loves making different and healthy food.