Challah, an enriched and truly delicious bread, is prized for its tender crumb, but identifiable by its glossy crust and characteristic braid. It is unmistakable among the other crisp crusts and rustic shapes.
As part of ancient Jewish traditions, challah dough can be simply braided from three strands, like we braid hair or fibers for rugs or clothes. But the finishing for loaves of challah may be far more elaborate, with many strands, as many as 12, coming together to make intricate loaves, rolls, or rounds.
Like all traditions with long histories, the symbolism of the braids may be difficult to pin down as stories pass from generation to generation. But the number of strands in a loaf can represent any number of important cultural figures, moments, or traditions of the Jewish faith. They may also be, for many, simply an aesthetic choice.
If you would like to try a typical challah braid that is more elaborate, but still beginner-friendly, try either the 4-strand braid or 5-strand braid using our go-to recipe.