For the last several months, I’ve enjoyed making challah bread as part of our meal to welcome in the Sabbath. After we bless our heavenly Father who alone brings forth bread from the earth, we pass the loaf around, each breaking off a piece and remembering that He provides for all of our needs. This includes our most pressing need of a Savior. Yeshua is our ultimate bread of life (John 6:48).
Unfortunately, I can’t find any pictures of the challah I’ve made, but I did find something that looks close:
This is a simple, easy recipe that I tried out early on and have stuck with because of its success. My version is closely based on the challah recipe in the book A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays.
The following recipe will make a double-decker loaf that will feed 8-10 people.
The fact that there are two loaves reminds us that when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, the Father provided a double portion of manna on the sixth day so that his children would be able to enjoy rest on the Sabbath day (Exodus 16).
If you have a small family, and don’t want leftovers, you may want to halve the recipe.
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 packages of Rapid Rise yeast (or 1 1/2 Tbsp instant-active bulk yeast)
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 2/3 cups very warm water (120 degrees to be exact. If the water is too hot, the bread won’t rise. If its too cool, it will take longer to rise.)
- 1/4 cup oil (I like to use grapeseed oil – its healthy and neutral in flavor)
- 1/4 cup honey
Here’s how to make it:
1) Put half the flour (1 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups white), all the yeast and salt in a bowl. Mix.
2) Add the water, oil, and honey. Mix.
3) Add the other half of the flour (1 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups white). Mix well. The dough should feel soft like new play dough and should pull away from the sides of the bowl and stick to itself. If it seems like you need a bit of extra flour, only add 1/4 cup at a time. If you add too much flour, the dough will be too hard, like clay, and will not rise as well.
4) Rest the dough for 10 minutes. During this rest, the dough will rise some.
5) At this point, you can pinch off a bit of dough to be given to the Lord as a contribution as our ancestors were commanded to do when they came into the Promised Land (Numbers 15:17-21). Challah actually refers to the portion of the bread that was donated in Temple times to the priests. Even though we’re not in the land and don’t have the Levitical priesthood in tact, I think its a neat way to remember that the first of all we have is to be given back to our heavenly Father in gratitude for His provision. You can either take an olive-sized piece and burn or discard it, OR you could take a larger portion and make a separate loaf to give to someone else as a gift.
6) Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle some flour on top and knead for several minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
7) Break off about one third of the dough. (I like to use a wide spatula or dough cutter – like the one to the right – to do this.) This will be the dough for the top braid. Separate this ball into three equal parts and roll into approximately 8″ or 9″ ropes. Don’t worry if the ropes are longer or shorter. Longer ropes will make for a longer loaf, and the opposite will be true of shorter ropes. Once you have the ropes made, braid them.
8) Now take the larger portion of dough, which will be for the bottom braid, and separate it into three equal parts. Roll into approximately 14″ or 15″ ropes and braid.
9) Place the larger braid on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Lay the shorter braid on top of the larger one.
10) Allow to rise until double in size. This will take 45 minute to an hour away from a draft. I like to stick my loaf in the oven just so its out of the way. Please note that the oven should not be on if you decide to stick it there.
11) Once your dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 325 degrees, making sure to remove the loaf before the preheating process begins if you’ve allowed your loaf to rise there.
12) While the oven is preheating, you can brush one beaten egg white onto your loaf to add shine and color.
13) Bake on the middle rack for 45 to 55 minutes until nicely brown.
I like to try to time it so that the bread is coming out of the oven close to the time we are ready to eat it. Warm challah is an incredible way to bring in Shabbat!
While the bread is waiting on the table, it is traditionally covered. Some people have a special challah covering while others (like myself) use a cloth napkin. The covering symbolizes the dew that covered the ground. When the dew had gone up, the manna was revealed (Exodus 16:13-15). In the same way, when the cover is removed, the challah is revealed.
Here is the blessing typically recited before receiving the gift of bread.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe
Who brings forth bread from the earth.
It’s been a part of the tradition of God’s people for a very long time. Though it’s not a blessing specifically commanded in scripture, it does have its origins in scripture. Psalm 104:14 says:
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth.
In the following graphic from Hebrew4Christians.com, you can see the Hebrew, how to pronounce the Hebrew, and the English. (Note that Hebrew is read from right to left.) To hear a recording of what the Hebrew actually sounds like, you can press the audio icon next to the blessing on this page.