By Tina Wasserman
Normally, two loaves of elongated challah are served for Shabbat, but for the High Holidays a round challah, sometimes containing raisins, is customary. The round challah is fraught with meaning. It is symbolic of the crown of God, our Sovereign; it represents a year filled with neverending good. A ladder of dough placed on top represents the question of who will ascend or descend in health or wealth in the coming year. A lesser known custom is to bake the challah in the shape of a bird, based on Isaiah 31:5, “As hovering birds, so will the Eternal protect Jerusalem.”
Moist, cake-like challah is a big hit at my Rosh HaShanah open house. Divide the dough into two-thirds and one-third to make two loaves, but never use all the dough to make one giant crown, or the center will surely be raw after the normal baking time is reached.
Makes 2-3 loaves
7–8 cups bread flour, divided use
2 packages rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water
2 sticks pareve margarine, butter, or 1/2 cup oil and 1 stick margarine
1/4 teaspoon yellow food coloring
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup raisins (optional)
Egg wash: 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
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