Citizens, we are rapidly approaching Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה, literally meaning the “beginning (also head) [of] the year”) – the Jewish New Year. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (יוֹם תְּרוּעָה), literally “day [of] shouting/blasting.” There are any number of Rosh Hashanah recipes here on the blog, as well as a post about world food customs on this most celebratory of holidays – just search for them!
secretofchallah.com offers these explanations for the unique shape of Rosh Hashanah challah bread, which is round instead of a typical long oval loaf:
Rosh Hashanah round challah: It has become the widespread custom in many communities to bake round challahs in honor of Rosh Hashanah. The round shape symbolizes the yearly cycle and the “wheel of time,” the ascents and descents that a person experiences during his life. It also symbolizes perfection and infinity, expressing our hope for a perfect year, free of troubles and tribulations, a year of unlimited blessings.
The traditionally round challah of Rosh Hashanah is sometimes adorned with a “crown” made of a small braided ring of dough, commemorating the prayers of Rosh Hashanah proclaiming G-d King over the universe.
Eastern European Jews used to bake challah in the shape of a ladder to symbolize that on Rosh Hashanah G-d decides “Who will be humbled and who will be elevated,” as is stated in the prayers of Rosh Hashanah.
In some European communities, the custom was to bake round challah reminiscent of a bird peeking out of a nest (known as “foigel challah,” bird challah, in Yiddish). The reason for the custom: Just as G-d shows mercy to birds, so should He have mercy on us.
Lithuanian Jews had the custom to bake challah shaped like outstretched palms of the hand. The shape was meant to symbolize the hands of the kohens raised to bless the people during the Priestly Blessing (Birkat Kohanim).
The Jews of North Africa used to bake challah in the shape of a fish or a “chamsah,” a five-fingered hand, symbolizing good luck.
As further noted on crownheights.info:
Have you ever wondered why the challahs we eat during the month of Tishrei are round? Yes I know it is much easier for the bakery to make round challahs than braided ones. However this is a minhag in Jewish communities for hundreds of years, and people didn’t just do it out of convenience.
The Chasam Sofer (in Toras Moshe, mahadura tilisa, on Rosh Hashanah) explains there is a tremendous and indeed essential and fundamental difference between the braided ones to the round ones. The braided ones have a top and bottom or in other words a beginning and end. Yet the round ones don’t have a beginning or an end.
Just like many of the other things we eat on Rosh Hashanah are a sign or to symbolize something, so too, a round challah symbolizes that the brochos that Hashem bless each and every one of us amongst and together with the entire Jewish people, should be unlimited, without an end.
This teaches us an important lesson: The Alter Rebbe explains the preciousness of a minhag (a mere custom). While there is a biblical commandment to rejoice on Sukkos, that rejoicing doesn’t come close to the level of rejoicing by Simchas Beis Ha’shoei’va.
At the same token, the rejoicing by Simchas Beis Ha’Shoei’va which is rabbinic in nature pales in comparison to the level of rejoicing that is demonstrated by Simchas Torah, which is only a custom.
Yet it is the adherence to these customs that keeps the Jewish Nation strong.
My dough recipe uses both saffron and golden raisins and each braid is stuffed with diced apples to add additional sweetness, an idea I heartily cribbed from Tori Avey’s fantastic recipe. The braiding technique is also hers, and I hope you enjoy this fantastic, , Jewish or not! May the Jewish year of 5778 be a sweet one for us all!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Rosh Hashanah Round Challah – – רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה חַלָּה
- Total Time: 0 hours
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 F)
- Pinch sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup acacia or your favorite type of honey
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine (if you’re keeping kosher), melted
- 1/8 teaspoon ground saffron
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose or even better: White Lily-brand bread flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cup golden raisins, plumped by soaking in Grand Marnier
- 2 medium granny smith apples
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp turbinado sugar (optional)
- Egg Wash Ingredients:
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp cold water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water and sugar. Beat together eggs, honey and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup warm water, saffron and brandy, and blend well.
- Blend in the yeast mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time with salt, blending with a beater after each addition, until the dough is thick enough to work by hand.
- Spoon it out onto a floured board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually incorporating the raisins and enough additional flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover loosely with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.
- During this final rise, fill a mixing bowl with cold water and dissolve ½ tsp of salt in it. Peel the apples and dice them into very small pieces, about ¼ inch large. Place the diced apples into the bowl of lightly salted water. Reserve.
- When you are ready to begin braiding the dough, drain the apple pieces and pat them dry with paper towels. Toss the apple pieces with sugar. If you’d like, you can add ½ tsp of cinnamon to the sugar to give the apples an apple-cinnamon flavor.
- Put the dough on a smooth, lightly floured surface. Cut the dough on the floured surface into four equal portions.
- Take one of the four portions and stretch it with your fingers into a rough rectangle, about 1 foot long and 3-4 inches wide.
- Use a rolling pin to smooth the dough, if it helps. The rectangle doesn’t need to look perfect, and it shouldn’t be too thin– the dough needs to be thick enough to handle an apple filling.
- Sprinkle some of the sugared apple pieces across the center of the rectangle. You should use about ⅛ of the apple pieces in each rectangle.
- Liquid will collect in the apple bowl as you progress—do not transfer the liquid to the dough, or it will weaken and become mushy. Do your best to shake off excess liquid before placing the apples on the dough. Leave at least ½ inch border along the outer edge of the dough clean, with no apples.
- Gently roll the upper edge of the rectangle down to the lower edge and pinch to seal, creating a snake-like roll of dough stuffed with apples. This is the beginning of your strand.
- Gently and carefully roll the stuffed strand till it becomes smooth, using gentle pressure with your hands on the center of the strand, pulling outward as you roll. If any apples begin to poke through the dough, repair the hole with your fingers before you continue. Re-flour the surface as needed to keep your dough from sticking.
- Taper the ends of the strand by clasping between both palms and rolling. At the end of the rolling process, your strand should be about 16 to 18 inches long with tapered ends.
- Once your apple strand has been rolled, repeat the process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough, making sure that they are even in length with the first strand. In the end, you’ll have 4 apple-stuffed strands.
- Now your stuffed strands are ready to braid. There are a few different ways to braid 4 strands into a challah. This recipe will guide you through one method for braiding a round four strand challah.
- See braiding details at https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/apple-honey-challah/
- After the round has been braided, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Let the braid rise 30 to 45 minutes longer.
- You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when you press your finger into the dough and the indentation stays, rather than bouncing back.
- Brush the challah with egg wash.Sprinkle the top of the challah with 1 tbsp turbinado sugar, if you wish.
- The challah needs to bake for about 45 minutes total, but to get the best result the baking should be done in stages. First, set your timer to 20 minutes and put your challah in the oven.
- After 20 minutes, take the challah out of the oven and coat the grooves of the braid with another thin layer of egg wash. These areas tend to expand during baking, exposing dough that will turn white unless they are coated with egg wash.
- Turn the challah around, so the opposite side faces front, and put it back into the oven. Turning it will help your challah brown evenly—the back of the oven is usually hotter than the front.
- The challah will need to bake for about 20 minutes longer. For this last part of the baking process, keep an eye on your challah—it may be browning faster than it’s baking. Once the challah is browned to your liking, take it out and tent it with foil, then place it back in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 2 minutes of baking time.
- Take the challah out of the oven. Test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf—if it makes a hollow sound, and it’s golden brown all the way across, it’s done.
- Because of the apples in this challah, it may take a bit longer to bake than your regular challah recipe. Err on the side of letting it cook longer to make sure it’s baked all the way through. You can also stick an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the challah– when it reads 190, it is baked all the way through.
- Cool on a rack.
- Serve the challah on a circular tray and set a bowl of honey in the center. Makes 1 challah.
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Category: Recipes
- Calories: 1256.0 kcal
- Sugar: 59.71 g
- Sodium: 1214.56 mg
- Fat: 30.83 g
- Saturated Fat: 6.2 g
- Trans Fat: 4.19 g
- Carbohydrates: 210.64 g
- Fiber: 10.79 g
- Protein: 33.34 g
- Cholesterol: 159.96 mg
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