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Friday, January 30, 2015


Braiding Dough
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Ar. al-malla, Heb. Hallah, challah. Eng. halo bread, egg bread for the Jewish Sabbath. This is a round or braided loaf of Jewish bread which may have raisins inside. It was made in Jewish communities especially for the Sabbath. The Hebrew word refers also to the portion of dough reserved for the rabbi. In general, loaves of bread were round during the Middle Ages.

Hispano-Arabs also made halo bread and baked it under the ashes, not in an oven. In Granada and Cordova, a round loaf was made that looked like a diadem or halo. The Cordovans baked this cake especially for the New Year. The process of baking bread under ashes was not an invention of the Arabs, who invaded Spain in the 8th C, for it is mentioned four times in The Bible (Kings XIX:6, Lev II:5, Ezek IV:3 and Chron IX:31). It could have been a method handed down from the Egyptians, supposedly the first bread bakers.

It could be made with or without oil. Jews, normally, made it unleavened, except for the Sabbath. See pan de rescoldo. [Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:36; and Enyc Judaica. 1971:7:Fr:1193-1194]

Hispanic period recipes do not seem to exist. The modern recipe below seems to follow historical lines.


Ingredients for 2 braided loaves
Braid with Poppy Seeds
Photo by: Lord-Williams

2 ½ cups warm water (110ºF/45º C)
1 tbsp active dry yeast
½  cup honey
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp salt
8 c all-purpose flour
1 c seedless raisins (optional)

1 egg slightly beaten
1 tbsp sesame or poppy seeds (optional)   


Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl. Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition. Knead by hand if it becomes too thick for beaters. Knead for about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in size. If raisins are desired, add them to the dough and knead well until evenly distributed.

A Halo from Heaven
with Sesame Seeds
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Punch down on the risen dough and turn it out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for 5 minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep from getting too sticky.

Keep a glass of water on the side to dampen finger tips if the dough becomes too dry.

Divide each half into thirds and roll them into long snakes about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place the 3 snakes parallel to each other and start braiding from middle. Either leave as a long braid, curling the ends under the braid or circle it around to make a halo, bringing ends together and pinching the ends together.
Grease two baking trays and place finished braid or round on each.

Cover with towel and let rise about 1 hr.

PREHEAT OVEN TO 375º F/190º C.

Beat the egg for garnishing and brush each braid generously with a paint brush. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.

Bake about 40 minutes. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.

Serve warm. It can be reheated in a conventional oven, not a microwave.

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