By David Sax

A braided bread made from an egg-enriched dough that is traditionally served at the start of the sabbath meal on Friday nights, challah is undoubtedly the most meaningful and significant bread of Ashkenazi Jews around the world. The bread’s origins in Jewish history aren’t well known, but it is believed to have been adapted from braided German breads in the middle ages, as the Ashkenazi community began to coalesce.  Challah has since spread all over the world through the immigration of Ashkenazi Jews, and is found on sabbath tables and in Jewish bakeries from Tokyo to Buenos Aires.

Challah has a glossy sheen, and a soft, almost cakey texture, thanks to a significant amount of oil and eggs in the dough, which makes it particularly easy to shape and bake.  Aside from serving as a sacramental bread on the sabbath and other holidays, challah is the ideal foil for toppings and sandwiches, such as chopped liver, egg and tuna salad, or just a pile of grilled salami slices, slicked with mustard.  It is also the perfect bread for French toast.