Challah is a braided bread. It is usually a bit sweeter or more decorative than regular bread and often used to celebrate holidays, especially Shabbat. Most challah is a white, egg bread, but that is not necessary. The basic ingredients are flour, water, sugar (or honey), eggs, oil, salt and yeast. Challah is often glazed with egg and may have other special ingredients, such as raisins, sesame or poppy seeds. Other variations include the number of pieces that are braided -- commonly three or six and the shape. While most challah is basically a straight braid, for special occasions, some will braid it into a loop or circle or create a double braid.
The term challah comes from the piece of each bread loaf that was sacrificed and given to the priests in the days of the Temple. Some still throw out or burn a piece of the dough in remembrance.
Challah is usually parve -- containing neither dairy nor meat ingredients.
The different shapes and additions have special meanings for some people. For instance, the seeds sprinkled on the challah may represent the manna that fell from heaven and fed the Israelites when they wandered in the desert.
- allrecipes.com: challah 1
- about.com on how to braid challah and multiple recipes, including some that can be made in a bread machine
- epicurious challah recipe
- Grandma Rosie's Fabulous Challah