One of the ways we recognize traditional Jewish challah bread is by its beautiful braid, but when the High Holidays arrive, suddenly bakeries begin churning out round challahs instead of the familiar braided loaves.

The challah is formed into a round shape for the High Holidays to symbolize the yearly cycle and the “circle of life.” The circle, which symbolizes perfection, also manifests our hope for a perfect year, full of blessings and free of troubles.

Sometimes a braided ring of dough adorns the top of the round challah, reminding us that on Rosh Hashana we proclaim that God is king of the universe.
Many people like their challah sweet, and for Rosh Hashana, when we wish one another a “sweet New Year,” raisins are often added for extra sweetness and then each slice is dipped in honey at mealtime.

Here is a delectable recipe that is sure to sweeten up any holiday table.

Honey Challah With Raisins

  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup raisins, plumped in hot water for 3-5 minutes
  • 1 egg white, beaten with 1 tsp water

Dissolve sugar and yeast in water in a large mixing bowl. Add honey, oil, eggs, sugar, salt and 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Mix until dough is smooth. Gradually mix in remaining flour until dough comes together into a ball and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. (You may need up to 1/4 cup extra flour, depending on how sticky the dough is.) Mix in raisins. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Knead for 8-10 more minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent the dough sticking. Dough should be smooth, elastic and slightly sticky when finished.

Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Gently remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate the dough.

Roll the dough into a long rope and coil the rope into a round pan, starting in the center. Brush lightly with egg white. Preheat oven to 375ºF and let dough rise, covered loosely, for 35-40 minutes, until almost doubled. Bake for 30 minutes, until deep golden brown.
Cool completely before slicing.

Wishing you a sweet and peaceful New Year!

Eric Monteiro