Braiding challah takes a little time and practice, but the beautiful loaf of bread you create is worthy of a holiday celebration!

Let’s Talk Shapes

Specifically, bread shapes. Whether it’s round, oblong, squared off, or in a wreath, bread comes in a variety of shapes. Most types of bread aren’t associated with a specific shape, but challah, a Jewish egg-enriched bread, definitely isn’t one of those…braided, either oblong or round, that’s the shape of challah. It’s instantly recognizable. Used for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), or for special occasions, challah’s special shape holds traditional meanings. Braiding challah takes a little practice, but your reward is a beautiful shiny bread suitable for celebrations.

[Side note: it’s hard to write how to pronounce the word challah…the beginning sound doesn’t exist in English. The “ch” is the anglicized version for the Hebrew letter “chet” which represents the sound you make when you’re trying to clear your throat, not the sound starting “cheese.” That’s why you’ll see the Jewish December holiday of Hanukkah sometimes spelled “Chanukkah.” Ok, our linguistic lesson is over…let’s get back to food.]

 

oblong 6-strand and round 4-strand challah
These are an oblong 6-strand and round 4-strand challah…ready for holiday noshing

Why is challah braided?

The internet abounds with many different reasons why braiding challah as an oblong shape is used on the Sabbath and other special occasions. Those reasons vary based on how observant the individual is…some sites go deep into Jewish law (having to do with the rituals of the ancient temple), while others look to a more biblical meaning (representing manna from heaven), and still others go for a more secular meaning (creating a shaped bread that can be distinguished from ordinary bread, thus making it safe to eat for the Shabbat meal). In addition, the round challah used on Rosh Hashanah symoolizes the circular nature of time itself (one year ends, another starts), but even that simple explanation has deeper meanings for people. Far be it for me to highlight one reason over another, and this space is for shaping the bread, not debating faith traditions, so let’s just move on, shall we?

Different Types of Challah Shapes

Going back to the practical aspects of making challah, this bread can be braided using Three-, Four-, Six-, or even Eight-strands, either oblong or round. I gave you my time-tested challah recipe…now we’ll discuss how to shape it. Let’s play with our food!

 

challah dough ingredients
Mix all these ingredients, add magic, and bread will pop out! (well, there may be a little more to it than that)

Oblong Challah

Three-strand braided challah

Three-strand braids are the easiest to master…it’s just like braiding hair.

Three-Strand Braided Challah

Traditionally served on Shabbat or other Jewish celebrations, this braided challah is easy to make
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time5 mins
Resting Time45 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: Bread, Challah, Jewish Sabbath, Shabbat, Yeast Bread
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe challah dough see Recipe Notes
  • 1 large egg beaten

Procedure

  • Weigh the dough and portion out 3 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a long rope. Lay all the ropes side by side on a lightly floured surface and pinch them together at the top.
  • Take the right strand and have it jump over the middle strand…it’s now the middle strand
  • Take the left strand and have it jump over the middle strand…it’s now the middle strand
  • Continue the pattern, alternating between the right and left strands, until all the strands are braided.
  • Tuck ends under and brush with the beaten egg.
  • Transfer to a half sheet pan lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Let rest in a warm place for 45 minutes before baking.
  • Brush with the beaten egg again and sprinkle on any desired toppings. Bake as directed

Notes

You can find my time-tested recipe for challah here.
Did you use this technique?Please share your pictures with the world...mention @scotch_scones and tag #scotchandsconesblog on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. I can't wait to see your creations!

 

shaping 3 strand braided oblong challah
The simplest braid, you just alternate having the outside legs “jump over” the middle one

Four-strand and Six-strand braided challah

Four- and Six-strand braids are a little trickier, but the technique isn’t hard to master. With a little practice, your challah will look like it came straight from the bakery!

Four- or Six-Strand Braided Challah

This beautiful challah will look like it came straight from a bakery!
Prep Time10 mins
Active Time5 mins
Resting Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: Bread, Challah, Jewish Sabbath, Shabbat, Yeast Bread
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe challah dough see Recipe Notes
  • 1 large egg beaten

Procedure

  • Weigh the dough and portion out 4 or 6 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a long rope. Lay all the ropes side by side on a lightly floured surface and pinch them together at the top. (Note: the instructions below are for a 4-strand braided challah)
  • Take topmost right strand and place on opposite side.
  • Take 2nd from top left strand and place on opposite side.
  • Take topmost left strand and place in middle.
  • Take 2nd from top right strand and place on opposite side.
  • Take topmost right strand and place in middle.
  • Take 2nd from top left strand and place on opposite side.
  • Take topmost left strand and place in middle.
  • Continue pattern until all strands are braided.
  • Tuck ends under and brush the braided dough with the beaten egg.
  • Transfer the dough to a half sheet pan lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Let the dough rest in a warm place for 45 minutes before baking.
  • Brush the dough with the beaten egg wash and sprinkle on any desired toppings. Bake as directed.

Notes

Six-strand braids use the same technique as the four-strand braid, it’s just you have to make sure when you place the strand in the middle, you have two strands on either side instead of one.
You can find my time-tested recipe for challah here.
Did you use this technique?Please share your pictures with the world...mention @scotch_scones and tag #scotchandsconesblog on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. I can't wait to see your creations!

 

shaping 4 strand braided oblong challah
A little trickier than the 3-strand braid, the 4-strand braided challah takes some practice

 

shaping 6 strand braided oblong challah pt 1
Starting to braid with 6 strands…

 

shaping 6 strand braided oblong challah pt 2
…and continuing the pattern

An alternative Six-strand braided challah…

On Instagram I discovered @mandyliciouschallah, a self-proclaimed challah guru who puts up videos in the highlights on her profile of incredible looking challahs. I was perusing them when I noticed that she had an alternative method for shaping a six-strand oblong challah. This method’s pattern was considerably easier to remember…take the right strand, and go to the left jumping over the adjacent two strands, under the next one strand, and over the last two strands. So simple! (Side Note: you probably need an Instagram account to see the video, but why not sign up and follow me, @scotch_scones? You’ll see all my posts’ images in my profile.)

Easy Six-Strand Braided Challah

This method for braiding has an easy to remember pattern, and the challah it produces is lovely!
Adapted from Mandylicious
Prep Time10 mins
Active Time5 mins
Resting Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: Bread, Challah, Jewish Sabbath, Shabbat, Yeast Bread
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe challah dough see Recipe Notes
  • 1 large egg beaten

Procedure

  • Weigh the dough and portion out 6 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a long rope. Lay all the ropes side by side on a lightly floured surface and pinch them together at the top.
  • Take rightmost strand and jump it over the next 2 strands, under the 3rd strand, and over the next 2 strands.
  • Repeat with the new rightmost strand, and continue the pattern until the end of the strands. Pinch the leftover ends together and tuck under the loaf.
  • To even out the loaf you can turn braid around, undo the very top, and redo the pattern.
  • Tuck ends under and brush the braided dough with the beaten egg.
  • Transfer the dough to a half sheet pan lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Let the dough rest in a warm place for 45 minutes before baking.
  • Brush the dough with the beaten egg again and sprinkle on any desired toppings. Bake as directed.

Notes

You can find my time-tested recipe for challah here.
Did you use this technique?Please share your pictures with the world...mention @scotch_scones and tag #scotchandsconesblog on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. I can't wait to see your creations!

 

shaping 6 strand braided oblong challah alternate
This 6-strand braid is actually quite easy…take the right leg over 2, under the next 1, then over the last 2…and repeat!

 

Alternative oblong 6-strand braided challah
An alternative (dare I say easier?) oblong 6-strand braided challah

Round Four-strand braided challah

There are many ways to make a round challah. The easiest of course is to make a long rope, then coil it up. Easy, but not as pretty. I like to make a four-strand woven round challah.

Four-Strand Woven Round Challah

Round challah is traditionally served for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). This shape is a beautiful and easy way to shape bread for the holiday!
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time5 mins
Resting Time45 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: Bread, Challah, Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, Yeast Bread
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe challah dough see Recipe Notes
  • 1 large egg beaten

Procedure

  • Weigh the dough and portion out 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a long rope.
  • Start by laying two strands next to each other horizontally.
  • Lay two strands next to each other on top vertically.
  • Take the right vertical strand and weave it under the upper horizontal strand.
  • Take the left vertical strand and weave it under the lower horizontal strand (you now have a pattern akin to a tic-tac-toe board). Push all the strand tightly together in the middle so there’s no space between them, and separate the ends so you’ll have room to start weaving.
  • Starting with the lower horizontal strand, place it over the strand next to it on the left (the right vertical strand).
  • Take the left vertical strand and place it over the strand next to it on the left (the lower horizontal strand).
  • Continue the pattern with the upper horizontal strand and the right vertical strand. You’ve gone around the circle clockwise a total of 4 times.
  • Now do the same pattern going to the left placing the strand over its neighbor on the right, going around the circle counter- clockwise.
  • Travel around the circle clockwise again.
  • Travel around the circle counter-clockwise one more time. By now the strands will be too short to continue the pattern, so tuck the ends under and adjust the woven round mass into a circle. Brush the woven dough with the beaten egg.
  • Transfer to a half sheet pan lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Let the dough rest in a warm place for 45 minutes before baking.
  • Brush the dough with the beaten egg again and sprinkle on any desired toppings. Bake as directed.

Notes

You can find my time-tested recipe for challah here.
Did you use this technique?Please share your pictures with the world...mention @scotch_scones and tag #scotchandsconesblog on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. I can't wait to see your creations!

 

shaping 4 strand braided round challah
More like weaving, you alternate hopping over the neighbor going one way, then the other

 

There you have it, friends, how to shape challah like a pro. If you have any questions, please leave it in the comments below. Practice with patience and soon you’ll master the patterns and be shaping challah dough…and that’s worth celebrating. Happy braiding!

Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!

Tammy

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