Pascale’s Kitchen: Purim challah

Each Jewish holiday has its own special type of challah to distinguish it from traditional challot that are prepared for Shabbat.

Sweet challah with seeds (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Sweet challah with seeds
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Enjoying homemade challah with our family and friends is a very special way to celebrate Shabbat and holidays. The carefully formed or braided challot sit in the center of the table on a special challah board or tray. Whether they are topped with poppy or sesame seeds, challot are always the center of attention on any Shabbat table. Lots of people bake challot at home, and everyone has their own special recipe and way they braid them. There are so many different ways to shape challot and you can add any tasty toppings you desire. 
Learn more about Pascale's Kitchen here>>
Each Jewish holiday has its own special type of challah to distinguish it from traditional challot that are prepared for Shabbat. In the Ashkenaz tradition, it is traditional on Purim to prepare sweet challot called keylitsh, and the extensive braids are intended to remind us of the rope used to hang Haman and his sons. Brachas (blessings) are little rolls that are made from the same dough. 
In Jewish Moroccan cuisine, there are special challot called Boyos di Purim, which are full of hazelnuts, raisins, hardboiled eggs and almonds. Some people like to make one large challah, while others prefer lots of small ones – with a hardboiled egg stuck right in the middle of each one (the hardboiled eggs symbolize the evil Haman.) These individualized challot are often sent as part of mishloach manot. Some families bake challot that look like little dolls, which symbolize Haman’s sons. Other people bake challot in the shape of a ladder or birds, in honor of making aliyah to Israel. 
This year, in honor of Purim, I’ve included two challah recipes. The first one in the shape of a crown and the second one in the shape of a ring that is covered with seeds. The third recipe is for a light poppy seed cake that is iced with a sweet and tangy lemon icing and covered with dried rose petals. 
Happy Purim!
Taking Challah
Jewish women may partake in the important mitzvah of taking challah. To do this, you take a bit of the dough, say the blessing, and then either burn it or wrap the piece well and throw it away. If you are using less than 1.2 kg. of flour, you do not take challah. If you are using up to 1.67 kg flour, you take challah, but do not say the blessing. If you use more than 1.67 kg flour, the woman baking the challot separates the piece of challah and then says the blessing. Saying the blessing for taking challah carries great importance and is believed to protect family members. 

Crown challah 
Makes 2 large or 4 small challot.
1 kg. flour, sifted
3 Tbsp. oil
1 egg
50 g. margarine or ¼ cup oil
1 tsp. salt
½ cup small light raisins
3 Tbsp. almond slivers
50 g. fresh yeast
5 Tbsp. sugar
2 to 2½ cups water
Toppings:
1 egg, beaten, or 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 drops of oil
½ cup light sesame seeds
½ cup dark sesame seeds
Syrup (optional):
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 Tbsp. honey or silan
½ Tbsp. lemon juice
Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Form a well in the center of the flour and add the oil, egg, margarine/oil and salt in the center. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar all around. 
Mix on medium speed and gradually add the water, raisins and almonds, slowly increasing speed. Stop mixing when the dough is soft and falls away from edge of bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot for 90 minutes or until it doubles in volume. 
In the meantime, prepare the syrup. Add the syrup ingredients to a small pot and heat over a medium flame until it boils. Turn flame down and cook for 10 minutes. 
Take the dough out of the bowl and punch out the air. Separate into two or four sections. Take one section and separate it into four pieces. Roll out each piece into a 50 cm.-long strip. 
Before you start shaping the crown, add more flour to your hands, work surface and the dough strips. Place two strips parallel to each other. Place the other two strips on top of the other two strips, parallel to each other and perpendicular to the first set of strips. Place one strip underneath so that they’re woven together like a hashtag symbol. Take the strip of one side and weave it with the side of the strip closest to it. Do the same with all the strips. Continue doing this until there are only the tips left. Tuck the tips under the challah. Make the other challot in the same fashion. 
Place the challot on a tray lined with baking paper. Grease them lightly and then cover with a cloth. Let them rise another 60-90 minutes (depending on temperature of the room) until they double in volume. 
Brush with egg wash or egg yolk. Sprinkle with light or dark sesame seeds. 
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 25 to 30 minutes. 
If you want, you can drizzle challot with syrup right when they come out of the oven. 
Level of difficulty: Medium
Time: 90 minutes
Status: Pareve
Sweet challah with seeds
Makes 1 large or 2 medium challot.
1 kg white flour, sifted
45 ml. (3 Tbsp.) oil
1 egg
50 g. butter/margarine, or ½ cup oil
1 tsp. salt
50 g. fresh yeast
80 g. (4 Tbsp.) sugar, or 2 Tbsp. honey/silan
480 – 600 ml (2-2.5 cups) water
Wash:
1 egg, beaten
Toppings:
½ to ¾ cup seeds
Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Create a well in the center of the dough and add the oil, egg, butter/margarine/oil and salt to the center. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar all around. 
Mix the ingredients on medium speed and gradually add the water, while slowly increasing the speed. Stop mixing when the dough is soft and falls away from edge of bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm spot for 90 minutes or until it doubles in volume. 
Take the dough out of the bowl and punch out the air. Separate the dough into two sections. Roll out each one until it’s long and thin. Then twist the two strips together so that it looks like a screw and then connect the ends, so that it forms a ring. 
Place the dough on a greased tray and let rise for another 20 minutes. 
Brush the challah with the egg wash and sprinkle with seeds and nuts. Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 25 to 30 minutes until it turns golden brown. Remove and let cool on a wire rack. 
Level of difficulty: Medium
Time: 90 minutes
Status: Pareve

Poppy seed cake
Bake in a loaf pan.
¾ cup finely milled spelt flour
1 packet baking powder
½ cup poppy seeds, ground or whole (whichever texture you prefer)
¼ cup coconut flakes
¼ cup ground almonds
2 eggs
½ cup demerara sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 packet vanilla sugar
Juice from 1½ oranges (¾ cup)
1 tsp. orange liqueur or brandy
Icing:
150 g. powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice (or more depending on desired consistency)
Decoration:
¼ cup dried rose petals
Optional:
You can add ½ cup of chocolate puffed rice, chocolate shavings, candied fruits, walnuts or raisins to dough. 
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, poppy seeds, coconut and almonds together. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Add the dry ingredients gradually into the wet mixture. 
Mix well. Grease a loaf pan and pour batter into it. Flatten batter. 
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out dry. Remove and let cool. 
In a bowl, mix together the icing ingredients. Pour over the cake evenly. Sprinkle with rose petals.
Level of difficulty: Medium
Time: 60 minutes
Status: Pareve
Translated by Hannah Hochner.