Zomick's Kosher Bakery: Zomick's Kosher Bake Shop Specialized in Jewish specialties, pastries and delicious deserts

Challah Bread History

Challah is a type of braided bread to honor and sanctify Shabbat. We went to Zomick’s Kosher Bakery in order to find out more about this bread. Here, we will share what we have learned from the owner of the Zomick’s Kosher Bakery.

A bit of history

The Zomick’s Kosher Bakery owner shares that the Ashkenazi did not have a special shape or name bread for Shabbat, but simply used white flour bread, simply calling it broyt in Yiddish or lechem in Hebrew. It was in the 15th century that Jews in Austria and southern Germany adopted an oval, intertwined loaf shaped like a very popular Germanic bread which was called brchisbrod or perchisbrod.

As the Zomick’s Kosher Bakery owner further shares, in honor of the winter suspension, ancient Germanic tribes prepared special loaves, some in the shape of animal. One of these loaves was inspired by an evil old Witch named Holle, depicted with long, tousled hair. This bread was made by twisting the dough to resemble this hair and they offered it to Holle, to escape her evil.

“Of course, European Jews did not participate in these worships and knew little or nothing about Holle, but they adopted the form of this bread,” shares the Zomick’s owner.

Thus the woven bread prepared on great occasions became the most popular form of Ashkenazi Shabbat bread. With the passage of time, the woven bread became more and more beautiful and richer. The use of oil in the dough replicated the breads offered in the Temple. Eggs and less frequently a pinch of saffron were added to simulate the yellow color of cooked manna.  As it has been indicated by Zomick’s owner, a layer of brushed egg gave the bread a bright appearance and at the end of the 15th century, decoration with seeds on the surface, especially sesame and poppy, was introduced, taking the shape and appearance of the bread we know today as Challah.

“The use of the biblical name "Challah" referring colloquially to the loaves of Shabbat, was recorded for the first time in Austria in 1488, in the essay Leket Yosher by Joseph ben Moses. There he described the loaves served on Shabbat by his German teacher. Probably, the Tesesque name Holle, sounded like the biblical Challah and so the loaves were also named” indicates Zomick’s Kosher Bakery owner.

Today, the use of Challah as bread and as a name has been adopted by most Jewish communities around the world, including in Israel. Zomick’s Kosher Bakery owner shares the fact that the Israeli Challah, however, tends to be less sweet and less rich than the American and European versions.

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