Growing up I loved holidays. It meant getting together with my cousins and seeing my Grandparents. My Nana loved holidays as well she always tried to make them special especially for us grandchildren. There would be amazing food, games and prizes, and of course playing in Nana’s basement which somehow, we always managed to pull every out that wasn’t attached. Making the mess was easy…cleaning up…not so much. I am sure there are many out there who could relate to this. These are the happy memories that I will always cherish. My Nana was such a hospitable person. She loved company and it was always said that no one would ever go away from Nana’s house hungry. This was so very true. You could never do a quick visit at her house. It always involved coffee and cookies at the very least.
So of course, you can imagine that holidays at Nana’s house was over and above. Christmas and Easter were Nana’s favorite holidays. Easters were filled with frilly Easter dresses and hats along with games and of course the Easter ham. But one thing that I remember most at Easter was this bread that Nana would get from a local bakery. It was so pretty. It looked like a large shiny braid and I could not pronounce the name, but I remember it started with a “Ch.”
Yes, Challah Bread was the name. I was curious as to why Nana always had this bread at Easter. So, I did some research. Challah bread wasn’t called Challah until the 15th century. The name came from Germany, Austria and Bohemia and later taken into Eastern Europe. The Jews from these countries would make this special bread for the first Sabbath after the Passover. During the 1400s Challah bread began changing in appearances as well. The braided bread began with the German Jews. I can just imagine the renowned German bakers seeing the gorgeous post Passover bread made by the Jews in their communities around Easter and adopting it as traditions for their Easter tables. Now this makes sense. That side of my family is very German and Nana loved traditions. It was no wonder she always had this special bread at Easter.
The Jewish ladies would always display two of these loaves on their table. It was to commemorate the double portion of manna provided by God while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. Often these beautiful loaves would have sesame or poppy seeds on the top representing the manna which looked like coriander seed. Challah bread is also slightly sweet to remember the sweetness of the Manna.
“And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.”Exodus 16:31
It is important to remember and recall the blessings of the Lord. So often God told the children of Israel to build monuments so that they would not forget what God had done for them and instructed them to pass the stories down to their children so that the blessings of God would be remembered throughout the generations. It only takes one generation to neglect to pass down the remembrance of blessings and lessons for them to be lost. What are we doing to remember what the Lord has done for us? Let’s contemplate on what He did for us.
“For God so Loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”John 3:16
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”Isaiah 53:5
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows;”Isaiah 53:4a
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.”Psalm 139:7-11
1 ¾ Cups warm water
1 ½ Tablespoons yeast
½ Cup sugar plus extra 1 Tablespoon for proofing yeast
½ Cup vegetable oil
5 Large eggs slightly beaten
1 Tablespoon salt
8-8 ½ Cups Flour plus extra for dusting/kneading
Sesame seeds for dusting (optional)
Proof the yeast by dissolving it in warm water with the tablespoon of sugar in a large bowl until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil and 4 of the eggs (reserve 1 egg for egg wash after braiding), with the remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add the flour 1 cup at a time to make a soft dough. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead until smooth.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm space with no drafts for about an hour, or until double in size. Punch the dough down then cover again and let it rise for another half hour.
- To form the 6-strand braid, divided the dough in half for 2 loaves on a clean surface. Divide each half into six equally sized portions and roll the balls of dough into 6 equally sized strands about 16 inches long. Place the strands side by side and pinch the tops together.
- Starting with the outside right strand, move it over 2 strands to the left.
- Take second strand from the left and move it all the way across to the far right.
- Take the outside left strand and move it over 2 strands to the right.
- Then move the second strand from the right over to the far left.
- Repeat steps 2-5 until loaf it fully braided.
- Tuck the end of braid underneath the loaf to secure it. If your braid is long and skinny you can reshape it by gently lifting and smooshing the loaf to even it out.
Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat for the second loaf. Whisk remaining egg for egg wash. Use a pastry brush and be sure to get in all the crevices of the braids.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Rachel was born and raised in a Christian home. She was saved at a young age for which she is thankful. She has lived in Pennsylvania her whole life. She worked in a bakery for 16 years before moving on in another direction. She has enjoyed cooking and baking over the years especially those foods rich in history. She is passionate about history and the stories of those who had so little yet were able to provide meals for their families. She appreciates the ingenuity behind the recipes written by those ladies who have pioneered the trail of food preparation before us. Food is an essential part of life and there is nothing sweeter to her than sitting together and sharing a meal together with family and friends.