Rainbow Challah for a Rainbow Wedding

Monday Morning Musings

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”

– Robert Browning

So this post does not really involve musing, unless you want to think about how wonderful bread is–both to bake and to eat.

As many of you know, my younger daughter got married recently. She had a rainbow themed wedding—planned before the Supreme Court decision–but oh so timely! What a trendsetter, she is. Naturally, I wanted to surprise her and her groom with a rainbow challah. I’m sure that’s the first thing that most people think of when they hear rainbow wedding. If you don’t know, challah is a type of rich, egg bread. At traditional Jewish weddings, which this was not, the bride and groom often cut a challah and distribute it to guests. Since they weren’t going to have a challah at their wedding, I gave it to them the day before the wedding. You know, so they wouldn’t be hungry while getting ready and faint during the ceremony. That’s a thing that could happen, right? (Jewish moms everywhere, “But what if there isn’t enough food?” There must always be plenty of food available at all times in case of emergency.)

I totally stole the idea of rainbow challah from Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat

Sorry, not sorry.

If you want a detailed recipe and braiding directions, check out her blog. She has a real food blog. The kind that has real directions and great photos. But keep on reading because I’m fun, and I will kind of sort of tell you how to make it. And provide not very good photos that I take on my iPhone camera. But—here’s the important part–

I made my Aunt Sima’s famous challah recipe. It is famous because I’ve written about it before. Also, it’s delicious.

It’s a great recipe, and if by chance you were to decide to bake two loaves (two batches) before 6 AM when you haven’t even finished your coffee because you want to make sure they get done before your daughter and her wife arrive for your other daughter’s wedding and you still have to clean the house, go to the gym, and work on your page proofs—and well, you might have—perhaps—added too much water to the recipe because it seemed then to need more flour than usual, but you’re not positive if you actually did add too much water.. . .well, IF this ever happened to you, rest assured that the bread will still come out great.

Because mine did.

AND, it looked like this.

Rainbow Challah

Rainbow Challah

Pretty impressive, right?

I used gel food dye. Important tip—wear gloves—well, unless you want your hands to be stained with a variety of colors. But if you want rainbow hands to go with a rainbow themed event? Fine. I will not stand in the way of your art. Otherwise, wear gloves.

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My husband bought me a huge box of these gloves, so now I can make 37 more rainbow challahs before I need to buy more gloves.

Instead of dividing the dough into 3 sections, as usual with this recipe, I divided it into 6.

I know you can see only 5 balls, but there were 6!

I know you can see only 5 balls, but there were 6!

Then I colored each a different color. I couldn’t figure out how to mix in the dye at first, and that took some time. I finally decided to use plastic knives to scoop out a bit of dye and added it to a ball of dough.

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I then kneaded each ball to distribute the dye. Each dough ball was well kneaded by the time I got through adding dye and kneading it. Very well kneaded. The most well kneaded dough I’ve ever made. You will need to use more dye for the darker colors. I then rolled each ball into a rope and braided the 6 ropes. It took so long to add dye and knead each ball that I didn’t really do much of a second rising after I braided the dough. Maybe 10 minutes or so.

Braided dough before baking.

Braided dough before baking.

Then I brushed the braided loaf with the egg yolk glaze and baked. Totally NOT Gluten Free! Stunning, colorful, and delicious!

My Aunt Sima’s World Famous Challah

Makes one large, scrumptious loaf

1¼ cups warm water

1 Package dry yeast

pinch of sugar

–Mix above ingredients, allow to stand and dissolve until frothy.

3 Tbsp. melted butter

3 Thsp. Sugar

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Egg

–Beat above ingredients and add to yeast mixture.

Add enough flour for a stiff dough. [Start with 2 cups and then go from there.] Knead and place in a greased bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled (about 1 hr. to 1 ½ hours). Knead again. Take off 1/3, if you want a “topknot.” Divide the rest of the dough into three sections, then braid the 1/3 and set on top. Or divide dough into 6 sections and braid. (For a round challah, you can braid and then connect the ends so it forms a circle.) Let rise briefly on a greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Coat with a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 1 Tbsp. milk. Sprinkle with poppy and sesame seeds. I usually use both, but didn’t do either for the rainbow version. Bake at 350° until golden brown. You can thump the bottom and it should sound hollow if it’s done.

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24 thoughts on “Rainbow Challah for a Rainbow Wedding

  1. All a work of colorful art – the quotes, the recipe, the braided bread. You broke the rainbow into pretty prisms. I have been looking forward to this post and it did not disappoint! 😉

    • I didn’t make 37 loaves, Marian, I just said I had enough gloves to do so. 🙂 I definitely won’t be writing any more blogs posts until next Monday. I have extreme summer test writing going on now, and I have two new book projects in the works. I’m taking some time right now to to catch up on other blogs.

  2. YUM! That looks seriously delicious! Did you make two batches so your other daughter and daughter-in-law could have one? Or was the second loaf for the chef? You know, like “Kiss the Cook” you do a “Feed the Cook” theme? I recently discovered a New York Jewish deli here in my own town which reminds me so much of NY in the 1970s, and is SO delicious…and challah bread is one of their yummy options! 🙂

    • Thanks, Rachel!
      Oh my goodness–you guessed exactly right! I made one loaf so that my older daughter, her wife, and us could enjoy it, and then gave the other one to my younger daughter and her husband-to-be! NY Jewish deli? Yum! You will be able to get good bagels and rye bread then, too! And maybe knishes? 🙂

    • Thanks, Shirley! Last summer I made a challah for my daughter and her wife before the wedding–I just hadn’t seen the rainbow challah idea. This summer both daughters and spouses got the rainbow challahs!

  3. Wow, Merril! Thank you for sharing this with me and making me feel such an intimate part of your preparations and being there as you worked the dough with your hands. there is something almost spiritual about making bread by hand, especially when it also has those religious associations. I wasn’t familiar with what a challah was and for some reason thought it was a shawl. Anyway, got quite a surprise when I saw the bread and absolutely loved it and think we’ll try and make it. I will try to get the kids to show a bit more respect handling the dough than with our pizza making effort! xx Rowena

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this so much. It really is a pretty easy dough to work with, even though my measurements are not very exact. I make a whole bunch of round challahs in the fall for Rosh Hashanah–well, I guess it would be your spring. It will be mid-September this year.

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