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Classic Chernowitzer Challah

Classic Chernowitzer Challah

By: Terra Brockman (Read Bio)

Classic Chernowitzer Challah
Maggie Glezer, in her book, A Blessing of Bread, provides this recipe and attributes it to Lotte Langmann, who lived in the city of Czernowitz, known as the Vienna of Eastern Europe, famous for its tolerance, culture, and learning. Lotte Langmann and nearly everyone in her family, and in Czernowitz itself, perished in the Holocaust. It is in her memory that we share this recipe. And it is some small comfort that this beautiful bread from that place and time lives on.
Yield: Makes two 1-pound (450-gram) challahs, one 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) challah, and three small rolls


  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons/7 grams/0.3 ounce) instant yeast
  • About 3 3/4 cups (500 grams/17.6 ounces) bread flour (We recommend either Janies’ Mill High Protein or Sifted Artisan flour — see notes below)
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams/6 ounces) warm water
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams/3.8 ounces) vegetable oil (olive oil also works well)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams/0.3 ounce) table salt
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams/1.9 ounces) granulated sugar
  • Poppy seeds or sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)


    • Mixing the yeast slurry
      In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast and 3/4 cup (100 grams/3 ounces) of the flour, then whisk in the warm water until smooth. Let the yeast slurry stand uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.

      • Mixing the dough

        Whisk the 2 eggs, oil, salt, and sugar into the puffed yeast slurry until the eggs are well incorporated and the salt and sugar have dissolved.

        With your hands or a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining 3 cups (400 grams/14.7 ounces) flour all at once. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface and knead it until smooth and soft, no more than 10 minutes. (Soak your mixing bowl in hot water now, to clean it and warm it if you would like to use it for fermenting the dough.) Or, if you like, the dough can be very quickly kneaded in a food processor: mix the ingredients together in a bowl as directed, cut the rough dough in half, and process one half at a time, then knead the halves together.

        If the dough is too firm to easily knead, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour. The dough should feel smooth and firm and knead easily without sticking to the work surface.

      • Fermenting the dough
        Place the dough in the warm cleaned bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. (Or, the dough can be refrigerated right after kneading, then removed from the refrigerator to finish fermenting up to 24 hours later.) Let the dough ferment until it has at least doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. (If it has been refrigerated, the dough will take an extra 30 to 60 minutes to ferment.)

  • Shaping and proofing the dough
    Line one or two large baking sheets (depending on how many breads you are making) with parchment paper or oil them. Divide the dough into two 1-pound (450-gram) portions for loaves, one 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) portion for a large loaf and three smaller pieces for rolls (the easiest way to do this is to divide the dough into quarters and use three of them for the bread and the other for the rolls), or sixteen 2-ounce (60-gram) portions for rolls. To make a New Year's spiral*, roll each portion into a long, even strand, preferably sheeting it out first.

    For a flat spiral, make a very loose spiral of dough on the prepared sheet, starting at the center and winding the dough around, leaving space between the loops, and tuck the end of the strand under.

    For a high-rising spiral, wind the dough tightly around on the prepared sheet, without leaving any space between the loops, and be sure that the last loop is bound with a bit of tension. This will force the dough to rise in the center as it is proofing and especially during the oven rise.

    If you would like to make the bird's head*, before making a long strand, pull off and shape a small round from the dough. Set the round on the spiral, using a little water to help it stick. When the dough is fully proofed, pinch out a beak shape and use your finger to push in dimples for eyes, or use raisins or currants for the eyes.

  • Cover the loaves well with plastic wrap. (At this point, the loaves can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.) Let proof until tripled in size, about 1 1/2 hours (or up to 2 1/2 hours if the loaves were refrigerated).
  • Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower third positions if using two baking sheets, or arrange one rack in the upper third position if using one baking sheet, and remove any racks above them. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas mark 4). If you like, preheat one or two baking sheets to double with the baking sheet(s) the loaves are resting on. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing the bread.
Baking the loaves
When the loaves have tripled and do not push back when gently pressed with your finger but remain indented, brush them with the egg glaze. If desired, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, the 1-pound (450-gram) loaves for 25 to 35 minutes, or the 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) loaf for 35 to 45 minutes, until very well browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking, switch the loaves from front to back so that they brown evenly; if the large loaf is browning too quickly, tent it with foil. When the loaves are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack.
  • *According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the New Year's spiral is a shape with a Ukrainian origin, originally a bird shape with the center of the spiral culminating in a bird's head: "The bird's head symbolizes the phrase in Isaiah 31:5 'As birds hovering, so will the Lord of Hosts protect Jerusalem'" — which helps to explain why this spiral shape would be called a faigele, "little bird" in Yiddish.

Notes on Sifted Artisan vs High Protein Bread flour in this recipe:

Sylvia, one of Head Miller Jill’s daughters, tested this recipe using the mill’s Sifted Artisan Bread Flour for one loaf, and High-Protein Flour for the other loaf. Both turned out beautifully, but with slight differences.

Sifted Artisan - If you prefer a classic challah with a soft, roll-like texture, you will probably want to use the Sifted Artisan flour. This loaf pulled apart easily, and had a mild, pleasant taste.

High Protein - If you prefer a more robustly textured and flavored loaf, you will love challah made with High Protein flour. Our miller and her whole family preferred the Chernowitzer Challah made with Janie’s Mill High Protein flour, primarily because of its wonderful flavor and aroma. The High-Protein flour (15% protein) created strong strands, making the texture noticeably stronger and not as easy to pull apart as the loaf made with Sifted Artisan flour.

Conclusion: Both of the bread flours worked beautifully in the recipe above, and could even be combined. It’s really a matter of your personal preference . . . or which flours you have on hand!

צו דיין געזונט Tsu deyn gezunt! To Your Health!

Posted on January 18 2022