National Day Jewish Recipes: Challah Bread

Jews in Singapore

The first Jews to settle in Singapore were of Baghdadi Origin during the 18th and 19th Century, many of whom came here after Singapore was established by the British East India Company as a trading port. There are roughly 2,500 Jews in Singapore and their cuisine is based around the laws of keeping kosher (translated as ‘proper’) where for example, certain foods such as pork and shellfish are forbidden and meat has to be properly slaughtered.

About Challah Bread

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Challah bread is a traditional plaited bread eaten in most Jewish homes on the occasion of the Sabbath. “On Friday night, before dinner, we bless the wine and this brioche-like bread which we dip in salt to remind us of our ancestors’ hardships. For the Jewish New Year, the bread is shaped in a circle to symbolise infinity and it is dipped in sugar for a sweet year,” reveals Odile Benjamin, creative director of Raoul.

In this story she shares her family’s recipe for Challah Bread while chef Eran Mayer of Artisan Boulangerie Co. shares his.

Challah Bread (Chef Version)
From: Eran Mayer, Artisan Boulangerie Co.

Ingredients for 3 loaves:
1kg flour
20g salt
80g sugar
30g fresh yeast
250g water (room temperature)
4 eggs
1 egg + 2 tablespoons milk
Sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:

1. Begin by sifting the flour to remove lumps.
2. Mix all ingredients together in a stand mixer with a hook attached, on a low speed for 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Raise the speed to medium and mix for another 4 minutes or until the dough separates from the sides of the bowl.
4. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with cling film or tea towel to rise and double in size.
5. Divide the dough into 300g portions before dividing each into 3 equal pieces.
6. Shape each piece into a long strand before braiding together to make a loaf.
7. Set the dough on a baking tray and cover with a tea towel to rise for another 30 to 45 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, make your egg wash by whisking an egg with milk in a small bowl then setting aside.
9. Once the loaves have doubled in size, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
10. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

OdileChallah Bread (Family Version)
From: Odile Benjamin
This is the recipe from which Odile makes the challah bread that her family eats every Friday.

Ingredients for 2 loaves:

5 cups bread flour
1 cup warm water
3 tsps dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsps butter
2 eggs
2 tsps salt
Egg wash
Sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:

1.Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup water with 1 tsp sugar. Cover and set aside to allow the yeast to get activated. It is ready to use once bubbles and a froth have formed.
2. Sift flour into mixing bowl, with salt and the balance sugar.
3. Create a well in the centre and add the eggs, butter and yeast mixture.
4. Fold in the flour and start kneading. Gradually add the other 1/2 cup of water and keep kneading until the dough is well combined, smooth and soft to the touch. (A good mixer with a dough blade can be used for the kneading).
5. Cover the dough and leave it to rise for about 45mins.
6. Once the dough has doubled in volume, divide it into 6 equal balls. Roll them out into long snakes of equal size. Take 3 at a time and plaid them together into a long loaf. Tuck in the 2 ends.  Place on a lightly floured baking tray and cover with a cloth to allow the bread to rise again for about 30mins.
7. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
8. Brush the loaf with egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
9. Bake for about 45 mins, or until golden brown.
Variations:  add chocolate chips, or raisins or cinnamon for different flavours. 

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