Sep 29, 2016  By Jewish National Fund  Category: Go North,

In the JNF Kitchen: Hagit's sweet challah

Beautiful round challahs just in time for Rosh Hashanah.

The #RecipeoftheWeek is a sweet challah brought to us for Rosh Hashanah by Hagit Stern, founder and owner of Brioche Café, located in Nahariya in the Western Galilee. The region has become a foodie and wine enthusiast paradise and is a key development area of JNF's Go North initiative. 

No other Jewish holiday has as many symbolic foods associated with it as Rosh Hashanah, and sweet challahs, often dipped in honey instead of the customary salt, are among the most prevalent auspicious foods on the Rosh Hashanah table.

Sweet challahs symbolize sweetness for the coming year, but their shapes also represent our hopes and prayers for the year to come.  

A crown shape is classic for Rosh Hashanah, alluding to God as the King of Kings.
A round challah also symbolizes our desire to come out "ahead" in the coming year.
A challah in the shape of a ladder or a round one with a ladder on top serves as a reminder during the pre-fast Yom Kippur meal that God decides who will ascend and descend the ladder of life. Similarly, for Hoshanah Rabah, the ladder is meant to help our prayers reach heaven.
A lesser-known tradition is embellishing the round challah with birds or shaping the entire challah in this form, recalling the phrase of Isaiah: 31:5, "As hovering birds, so will the Lord protect Jerusalem." Yet another theme is shaping the challah like a hand beseeching Heaven, or adding a motif of hands to the top of a round challah. 

Hagit Stern always loved baking, and decided to make it a profession. She studied in Estella Kitat Oman at Givat Shmuel and then moved to France and studied at Perpignan. Hagit brought the secrets of baking and French bakeries back with her and applied them at Brioche Café, where she bakes unique breads, where she bakes unique breads, brioche (of course), yeast cakes, and many more pastries. The bakery was featured recently in the Times of Israel's  "48 hours in the Western Galilee."

More on the Western Galilee:
Off the beaten path in the Western Galilee, Israel's Napa Valley, in photos
In the JNF Kitchen: Fall BBQ braised veal spareribs

Hagit leads bread and baking workshops for adults at Brioche Café. Her most popular, the bread workshop, includes a lecture on ingredients, followed by a hands-on workshop on white dough, milk buns, rye flour, sourdough, and whole-wheat flour. She also leads a baking workshop for kids, where they learn to make cakes and bread, quiches and more, and take home a variety of baked goods. Click here to learn more about her workshops, and explore all the amazing experiences the Western Galilee has to offer, and browse through the newest voucher catalog from the Western Galilee Now.

Enjoy this #RecipeOfTheWeek, and if you make any of these recipes, be sure to send a photo of your creation to or tweet it to @JNFUSA with the hashtag #JNFfoodie. We might share it! 

Ingredients (for 4 challah breads)

8 cups flour
16 teaspoons (50 grams) fresh yeast
3/4 cups of sugar
2 1/2 cups of water
3 eggs
2 tablespoons of salt
1/2 cup of oil


Take all of the ingredients above and mix into a soft smooth dough. Leave in a warm area until the dough doubles in size. 

Divide the dough into 12 parts. Take each part, roll it, and make into a leaf shape (thinner at the edge) or simply a long tube. 

Braid the dough. Hold every three pieces at the edge then put in the middle one by one. 

Let it stand for 15-20 minutes while the oven is on. 

Beat an egg and spread on the challah. Sprinkle sesame on top (optional). 

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until the challahs are nice and golden. 

Hagit's tip: add half a cup of raisins to the dough. 

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah!