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baking Jewish

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The braided shape of this loaf, used as the Jewish Sabbath and holiday bread, symbolizes the inseparable union of God and man. It is traditionally baked by the mother of the family and served at the Friday evening or holiday meal.

Yield: One 12- to 15-inch braid


  • 5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2½ teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • Egg wash: 1 egg well beaten with a pinch of salt


  • One heavy cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan lined with parchment


1. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until mixed.

2. Place the water in a mixing bowl and whisk in the yeast. Whisk in the oil, eggs, and yolk.

3. Add the liquid to the work bowl and pulse 8 or 10 times until the dough forms a ball. Let rest for 5 minutes, then run the machine continuously for 30 seconds.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface (you may need the help of a scraper). Knead the dough lightly to form a ball. Invert into an oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until the dough has doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface and press the dough with the palms of your hands to deflate. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a cylinder, 12 to 15 inches long. Arrange the strands side by side on the prepared pan. Begin to braid in the middle of the strands and braid to one end. Turn the pan around and braid from the middle to the other end. (Braiding from the middle outward helps keep the loaf a consistent width.) Pinch each end to seal the strands together and turn the pinched parts under the loaf. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until the dough has doubled, about 1 hour.

6. When the loaf is almost doubled, set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

7. Brush the top and sides of the risen loaf with the egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the internal temperature of the loaf reaches about 210 degrees.

8. Transfer to a rack to cool.


Serve challah sliced. Toasted, it has a wonderful nutty flavor. It also makes excellent French toast.

On the day it is baked, keep the bread loosely covered at room temperature. For longer storage, wrap in plastic and freeze for up to 1 month.

For a darker, shinier finish, remove the braid from the oven after it has risen and is firm (make sure that the loaf is firm or it may deflate) and beginning to color; gently repeat the egg wash and return the loaf to the oven immediately.

© 1995 Nick Malgieri

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

This recipe serves 12.

276kcal (14%)
400mg (17%)
6g (9%)
1g (3%)
30mg (10%)
10mcg RAE (0%)
0mg (0%)
13mg (1%)
3mg (14%)

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