Bakers try new takes on challah

Chocolate chunk and sea salt challah

Bread of some sort is part of almost every Jewish holiday. Hanukkah's bread, challah, has come to be known as a soft, yeasted bread with an airy crumb. But that wasn't always the case, and recently Jewish bakers have been challenging that tradition with new takes on the holiday staple

As The NY Times reports, traditionally, challah was defined as any bread made for use in Jewish ritual. In the beginning it included "everything from rich layered breads baked overnight in Yemen, pita pockets in Syria and lepeshka flatbreads in the Caucasus." Savory versions of challah emerged in the Middle East and North Africa, while Central and Eastern Europe breads became the fluffy, eggy, six-stranded braid that has come to define the holiday bread for many Jews. Special regional versions also flourished: full of different seeds or nuts, scented with various spices, and formed into many shapes.

Modern bakers are playing with all three varieties of the bread, taking each type and adding their own touches. Uri Scheft, who is head baker at Breads Bakery in New York, "has created a 'festive challah' that reflects the favorite seeds and spices of the Middle East: nigella, sunflower, poppy, sesame, pumpkin and flax. And Jewish bakeries of Buenos Aires produce a Sabbath bread called jalá that features chocolate chips.

Photo of Chocolate chunk and sea salt challah from indexed blog Sassy Radish

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