When one thinks of challah, a very specific style of bread comes to mind. Throughout supermarkets, kiddushes and Jewish gatherings, challah is a universal Jewish symbol of family. “Traditional” challah can usually be identified by its flaky, brioche-like braid, and its ability to pair perfectly with butter (or margarine) during Shabbat dinners.
But the true definition of the bread broken on Friday nights is in the preparation, not the presentation. Bread is transformed into challah when a small piece of the raw dough is broken off, wrapped in tinfoil, and placed into the oven. The following prayer is then stated: “ברוך אתה ה ‘אלוקינו מלך העולם אשר קידש אותנו במצוותיו וציווה עלינו להפריד חלה.” This translates to: “Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.” With this prayer, any bread is turned into challah to be shown off on the Shabbat dinner table. The placement of the small piece of challah into the oven symbolizes the animal sacrifices that occurred during the days of the temple. When one places a portion of their food in the oven, they offer it to G-d in the same way the high priests would sacrifice and burn parts of animals.
Challah can be customized to match any dinner it is paired with. Whether it be sweet, savory or traditional bread, there are a plethora of options and flavors, each a perfect fit for Shabbat dinner as long as biblical preparation steps are followed.
We rounded up a few of the best challah recipes that are sure to add flavor to the Shabbat table:
- Challah Pretzel Bread with Adobo-Lime Butter
- Spinach and Ricotta Challah
- Scallion Pancake Challah
- Pomegranate-Beet Challah
- Garlic Rosemary Challah
This Shabbat, following the chaos of thanksgiving, try to enhance your dinner experience with unique and flavorful challah. Or, if you’re accustomed to serving store-bought challah, try a homemade version!