Challah Bread

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A traditional Jewish bread made from an egg enriched yeast dough that is baked into a slightly sweet tasting and soft-textured bread to be served for the Sabbat and holidays. Made with eggs, flour, yeast, vegetable oil, and sugar or honey, challah bread is often referred to as an egg bread. The dough is divided into three, six or at times twelve strands that are braided together before it is baked into a golden colored loaf of twisted strands. The strands represent truth, peace, and justice. During some holidays, the bread may be shaped into other forms, such as during the holiday of Rosh Hashanah when the bread is formed into a round circle to symbolize the cycle of life, the cycle of the years, and the crown that honors Rosh Hashanah. On the eve of Yon Kipur, the bread may be formed into a ladder shape, a shape of wings or the shape of raised arms to symbolize prayers rising to heaven.

Another part of the tradition includes the separation of very small amount of dough prior to baking the bread. This small piece is baked, burned and discarded to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. The loaves are then baked, adding an egg wash to the top of the bread. It is also a custom to add sesame or poppy seeds to the egg wash, symbolizing the manna given to the Israelites by God as they traveled through the barren dessert.

When the bread is served, it is often placed in the middle of the table becoming a centerpiece of the Challah tradition for the Sabbath celebration. Instead of slicing the bread, it is the custom to break off small rounded pieces that can be easily eaten.

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