Thursday, March 13, 2014

Raising a Foodie: Starting a Challah Baking Tradition

My earliest childhood memories are of weekend mornings. Me in the kitchen "helping" my mom with pancakes or waffles. Measuring. Stirring. Beating egg whites. Folding egg whites into the water.

So, it's only natural that I've had Gates already in the kitchen baking and helping "prepare" some of her meals. When I stumbled across Rise & Shine: A Challah-Day Tale (*affiliate link) I knew I had an opportunity for three generations of women to make a special memory.

Challah Cooling on Baking Rack


Have you started a regular baking tradition with your little one?

I don't remember when we introduced Gates to what she calls "the candle ceremony," but when Gates wants challah she asks for us to light the candles. I wanted to expand on her interest with related educational activities.

Measuring Floor Mixing the dry ingredients


When I first found Rise & Shine, I was hoping it would talk about why we celebrate Shabbat. (The book was one of Gates' Chanukah presents.) I love that it promotes spending time with family and participating in offline activities specifically baking. It's an easy read, with a rhythm and cadence that stands up to a toddler's demand to read it "again!"

Rise & Shine: A Challah-Day Tale Children's Book


When we baked our holiday cookies and cake this past winter, it was Gates' first time baking with us. Unlike this time, we hadn't been able to talk about what we were going to be doing ahead of time.

The Rise & Shine story walks a reader through finding a Yiddish recipe, having their grandmother translate the recipe, and then making the recipe. As we'd read the book countless times before we took it into the kitchen, Gates knew what we'd be doing. We actually had the book open to the page that matched what we were doing.

Homemade Challah Inspired by Rise & Shine: A Challah-Day Tale Children's Book


Ingredients (makes 2 foot long loaves)

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 package quick rise yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar (we substituted maple sugar crystals)
  • 3/4 cup water, heated to 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, well beaten, reserve a Tablespoon for the glaze
  • 1 Tablespoon water for the glaze
  • (Optional) 1 Tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds

Proofing Yeast



The recipe as written in the book is a little confusing. It presents instructions for using a bread machine or making it by hand. The instructions for making the challah by hand refer to the bread machine instructions. I'd missed that part when I'd read the recipe through the first time and completely overlooked that we had to let the challah rise.

We started too late in the day for Gates to be able to eat any challah before she had to go to bed. With a toddler, I'd recommend starting your challah right after breakfast and then finishing after they've taken their morning nap.

Scraping the Batter from the Bowl Kneading the Challah


  1. Mix yeast and sugar in a small bowl.
  2. Have an adult pour the water into the combined yeast and sugar, mix, and let bubble.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and eggs.
  4. Carefully add the re-hydrated yeast to the flour mixture.
  5. Oil hands and knead until smooth.
  6. Lightly oil the large bowl, place the dough in it, cover and let rest 10 minutes in a draft-free space such as your oven. If placing your challah in your oven, put a note on the oven warning others and reminding yourself not to turn it on without removing the challah. (Dough should have doubled in size).
  7. Punch down, oil hands and knead a bit.
  8. Divide the dough in half.
  9. Further divide the two halves into three sections for braiding. Roll the sections on a floured surface until you have six similar length strands.
  10. Braid the strands. Place the finished braids on a cookie sheet.
  11. Cover the braids lightly with plastic wrap (or a clean tea towel) and place in a draft-free space. Let rise until doubled. Again, if placing your challah in an oven, put a note on it to warn others and remind yourself not to turn it on without removing the challah.
  12. When the challah is doubled, remove from draft-free space to your counter.
  13. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  14. While oven is preheating, mix saved egg with 1 Tablespoon water and brush on top of your braids.
  15. Optionally, sprinkle seeds across top of braids.
  16. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until brown.
  17. Remove from the oven and let cool on racks.

Challah Fresh from the Oven Challah Fresh from the Oven


If making challah for Shabbat, I'd recommend completing the first six steps the night before so that the dough rises over night and you can braid it in the morning, baking it at lunch so that it's ready for sundown.

Challah Cooling on Baking Racks Challah on a Platter


Shalom Shabbat!

genuinely eden

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, identified with (*affiliate link) following the linked text. I feature products that I own or that I am considering purchasing regardless of referral fees. I own the book referenced in this post. All opinions presented are my own.