Why Rosh Hashanah Challah Is The Perfect Beginner Bread

The High Holy Days are fast approaching, and if you're hosting Rosh Hashanah, or even just helping out, this may be the perfect opportunity to make homemade bread for the first time. In case a family gathering where food is central and expectations are high doesn't seem like an ideal time to you, then you've probably never made challah bread. 

Challah is not only delicious to eat, thanks to the oil, eggs, and sugar, but it's an essential part of the holiday meal. It's also made with a very flexible dough which some baking experts have compared to Play-Doh (via Epicurious and My Jewish Learning). 

Uri Scheft, baker extraordinaire and co-author of "Breaking Bread" says challah is his first recommendation to newbies who ask him where they should start with bread making (per Epicurious). Since challah is traditionally baked as braided loaves, the dough is made to be messed around with. Just like an art project, the recipe that Scheft provides in "Breaking Bread" is simple, flexible, and fun to work with. 

Letting your inner child do the baking

In addition to being both easy and delicious, making challah makes a great crafty project, for both kids and adults. The bread itself is highly traditional, but you can personalize it and play with it. When it comes time for the braiding, you can choose up to eight strands of dough to braid, keep it simple at just three, or settle somewhere in the middle (per Scotch and Scones). You can shape it into a round braid if you want, or leave it more rectangular, even baking it in a pan.

Scheft especially recommends taking a creative approach with the toppings, which you can use any kind of seeds. Think of the seeds as sprinkles for your bread, a way of having more fun by adding flavor, texture, and visual interest to what will become a golden, glossy loaf. You can add sesame seeds, nigella seeds, poppy seeds, and sunflower seeds. You can add them by section or mix them all up over your bread (via Epicurious). 

The beauty of making challah is how it brings back a childlike sense of enthusiasm and wonder while you are making and decorating something that can be shared and enjoyed with people you love. Sounds like a good start to a new year.