To welcome good fortune for the new year, the challah served at Rosh Hashanah is often braided into a round to symbolise the cycle of the year, filled with infinite blessings. The addition of raisins also signifies a sweet new year.
- 3 t yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 85 g sugar
- 500 g flour
- 2 t salt
- 1 free-range egg
- olive oil
- beaten egg, for brushing
- sesame or poppy seeds, for sprinkling
1. Mix the yeast and warm water with a small pinch of the sugar and leave to activate until bubbly and foamy.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together, then make a well in the centre.
3. Combine the egg and oil in a jug, then add to the flour mixture. Stir to combine, then add the yeast and warm water.
4. Stir with a wooden spoon (or use a stand mixer with the dough hook attached) until a shaggy dough forms, then turn out onto a clean surface. If using a stand mixer, continue mixing with the dough hook.
5. Knead until a smooth, slightly tacky dough forms, ensuring all the flour is incorporated. Try to avoid adding more flour until the dough has come together, continue kneading for a few minutes. If the dough still feels very sticky after about 5 minutes of kneading, add small amounts of flour at a time until it’s no longer sticking to your fingers.
6. Once the dough is ready, place in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with clingwrap or a clean tea towel and leave to prove. You want the dough to roughly double in size, so the time will depend on how warm your kitchen is. Alternatively, pop the bowl in the fridge and leave to prove overnight.
7. When the dough has doubled, turn out onto a clean surface and flatten into a rough square and add the raisins, pressing them into the dough. Roll the dough and knead gently to ensure they’re evenly distributed.
8. Divide the dough into four equal-sized balls (you can do this by weighing the dough and dividing by four for the rough weight of each ball) and roll out into even sausages.
9. For a visual step-by-step of the braiding technique, head here. Create the round braided shape by starting with a hash (#) shape with two sausages running horizontally and two running vertically on top. Take one top piece and weave it over and under the horizontal bottom pieces. Take the other top piece and weave it under and over the bottom pieces – the inverse of what the one on the left is. The result should look like a plus sign with no spaces between the strands, with each piece going under and over inversely. There will be two strands pointing in each direction, each strand will go over and under another piece. The idea here is that whichever piece you’re working with, you want to alternate going under and over. So, if the piece is sitting underneath another sausage, you will make it go over its neighbour.
10. Start at the top, taking a strand on the left and crossing it over the strand to its right. Take that strand (the one you just folded the first one over) and cross that over the one to the right. Do the same with the remaining two strands until you’ve got two strands pointing in each direction again, but with one strand slightly shorter than the other.
11. Then, repeat in the opposite direction, starting with the vertical strand on the right, crossing it over the strand to the left. Repeat until you run out of dough, trimming excess if you need to, or just tucking it underneath.
12. Carefully place on a greased baking sheet and cover with greased clingfilm to rise again before baking. Preheat the oven to 180°C. When the dough has risen again, brush with egg wash, sprinkle over sesame or poppy seeds and bake for 30–45 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the baking sheet and leave to cool on a cooling rack.
Photography: Jan Ras
Production: Abigail Donnelly
Food assistant: Bianca Strydom