In this first post-Pesach blog post I’m handing over to the fantastic Challah Mummy who is sharing her recipe and instructions to make a Shlissel Challah. Read on to find out about this fun tradition for the first Shabbat after Pesach!
It is customary for certain Jews, usually those of Ashkenazi origin, to bake a Shlissel (meaning “key” in Yiddish) Challah for the first Shabbat after Pesach. Some challah bakers hide a real key inside a traditional plaited challah but others actually bake their Shlissel Challah in the shape of a key. The Shlissel Challah is supposed to bring parnassa (or good fortune) and blessings to those who eat it as it is thought to represent the key to the gates of the Promised Land the Jews sought to enter after Pesach.
In the Challah Mummy Kitchen, we have baked our Shlissel Challah in the shape of a key and hidden a real key inside (let’s hope for double the blessings!) and we’ve attached a heart-shaped key ring to our Shlissel Challah just for fun!
Here’s how to make a Challah Mummy Shlissel Challah:
- 1.5 kg plain flour (approx.)
- 1½ cups of lukewarm water
- 1 portion of fresh yeast (approx. 40g, otherwise 1 tablespoon of active dried yeast)
- 6-8 tablespoons caster sugar plus one more tablespoon to mix in with the yeast
- 2 eggs plus one more egg white for the egg wash
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- ¼ cup of sunflower oil
- A few drops of red food colouring for the red heart-shaped key ring!
- Heart-shaped cookie cutter
- A key!
- First, pour the lukewarm water into a big mixing bowl, add the extra tablespoon of caster sugar and then carefully dissolve the fresh yeast into the water. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface of the water, pour in about a third of the flour, followed by the two eggs, the rest of the caster sugar, the salt and the oil. Get your hands into the dough and combine the mixture, adding flour little by little as you go, until you get a big ball of dough. You will know when the dough is ready to knead because it shouldn’t stick to your hands any more. You will likely need the rest of the flour to get to this point, but just use what your own dough mixture needs.
- Then sprinkle a clean work surface with flour, place the ball of dough down and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, adding a bit of flour if it gets too sticky again. Separate a small piece of dough from the big ball of dough, drizzle a little bit of leftover sunflower oil around the big mixing bowl and another small bowl, place the big ball of kneaded dough back inside the big mixing bowl and place the small piece of dough in the small bowl. Add a few drops of red food colouring to the small piece of dough and combine so the dough becomes red. Cover both the large bowl and the small bowl with cling film and leave to rise for about an hour and a half or until it has doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, give both the large ball and the small piece of dough a little punch to knock the air back out of it. Place the large ball of dough back on the floured work surface and knead it a little bit, with a bit of flour if needed, so that it’s ready to shape. It is at this point that the blessing over the challah dough should be recited if desired.
- Shape your challah into a key shape (see additional directions and photos). Once you are happy with the shape, cover it with a clean tea towel or cling film and let it rise again for half an hour to one hour. Towards the end of this time, pre-heat your oven to 180C (350F) and prepare the egg wash. In the Challah Mummy Kitchen, we prefer using the egg white, instead of the egg yolk, for our egg wash because it makes a slightly lighter brown colour on the outside of the baked challah. Spread the egg wash generously over the challah with a pastry brush. We added a few drops of red food colouring to the last drops of egg wash and spread that on the red heart-shaped key ring so that the red colour would be visible after baking.
- Bake the challah for 20-30 minutes at the bottom of your oven. You may need to cover the challah in foil at around 20 minutes if you feel it is getting a bit too brown and crispy!
As you can see from the photos, we made our Shlissel Challah using lots of long three-strand plaits which we laid out together on our baking paper to make a key shape. We think the best way to make long strips of challah to plait together is to roll the dough out with a rolling pin to make long and thin flat dough. Roll out the dough so it’s long and flat and then cut strips with a sharp knife.
First, we wrapped our key up in aluminium foil.
We then placed two long plaits next to each other for the main body of the key and wound one long plait round in three circles for the detailing at the top of the key.
We added three small plaits for the part of the key that would go into a door.
Finally, we rolled out the red dough and cut a heart shape out of it using a heart-shaped cookie cutter. We made a thin plait to attach the red heart onto the key like a key ring!
We placed our foil-covered key right in the middle of our Shlissel Challah so it will be discovered once the Challah is cut and shared.
About the Challah Mummy!
My name is the Challah Mummy! Each week in the Challah Mummy Kitchen, my two children suggest a new, fun shape and we make it out of challah. We have made fire engine challah, green turtle challah, blossom tree challah and even helicopter challah, as well as some more sophisticated designs, such as stars and flowers. I also teach Challah Mummy Braiding Workshops so that challah lovers can learn how to make gorgeous challah designs!
Check out all of our unusual and interesting designs at #ChallahMummy on Instagram, challahmummy.wordpress.com or the Challah Mummy Facebook Page. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend a Challah Mummy Braiding Workshop or have a suggestion for a new challah design.