Challah also known as khale (eastern Yiddish),(German and western Yiddish), berches (Swabian), barkis (Gothenburg), bergis (Stockholm), chałka (Polish) and kitke (South Africa), is a special braided bread eaten by Ashkenazi Jews, on the Sabbath and holidays.
According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday late afternoon) and two holiday meals each begin with two complete loaves of bread. This "double loaf" commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. The manna did not fall on the Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion would fall the day before the holiday or sabbath. It is these hunks of bread, recognizable by their traditional braided style that are commonly referred to as challah.
Ingredients and Preparation
Traditional challah recipes use a large number of eggs, fine white flour, water, and sugar. Modern recipes may use fewer eggs (there are also "eggless" versions) and may replace white flour with whole wheat, oat, or spelt flour. Sometimes honey or molasses is substituted as a sweetener. The dough is rolled into rope-shaped pieces which are braided and brushed with an egg wash before baking to add a golden sheen. Sometimes raisins are added.
Challah is usually parve (containing neither dairy nor meat, important in the laws of Kashrut), unlike brioche and other enriched European breads, which contain butter or milk.
Shabbat Challah rolls, known as a bilkele or bulkele or bilkel or bulkel is an Ashkenazi Jewish bread roll made with eggs, similar to a challah bun. It is often used as the bread for Shabbat meals or for meals during the festive Jewish holidays when a larger challah is not required.
On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the challah may be rolled into a circular shape (sometimes referred to as a "Turban Challah"), symbolizing the cycle of the year, and baked with raisins in the dough. Sometimes the top is brushed with honey in honor of the "sweet new year."
For the Shabbat Mevarchim preceding Rosh Chodesh Iyar — i.e., the first Shabbat after the end of the Jewish holiday of Passover — there is a custom of baking schlissel challah ("key challah") as a segula (propitious sign) for parnassa (livelihood). Some make an impression of a key on top of the challah before baking; some place a key-shaped piece of dough on top of the challah before baking; and some bake an actual key inside the challah.
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Challah I, allrecipes.com
How To Make Challah, kosherfood.about.com