Hello everyone! I love it when my readers read my mind! As I was working on this post, I received a message from one of my lovely readers … “Yael, could you please share with us more about the custom of baking challah in the shape of a key the week after Pesach (Passover)?” You asked and you shall have my dears!
So yes, it is indeed Schlissel (Key) Challah week. There is a custom to make make “key challah”- either braid the challah in the shape of a key, or insert a key inside the dough before baking it (wrapped in foil paper)- for the Shabbat right after Pesach. I’ve seen people press the key onto the top of the challah dough and bake it with the key on top of the dough. I prefer to cover the key well with foil and stick it inside one of the braids. Plus it’s more fun for the kids. They get excited trying to guess in which of the challot will the key show up.
This year I decided to try something new and in addition to “hiding the key,” I also braided a challah in the shape of a key. (What do you think ? Not too bad for a first attempt.)
Schlissel challah is considered to be a Segula (good omen) for parnassah (livelihood) with the key representing our desire that H” unlock the gates of parnassah. Thus, people usually hide the key to their home or to their business. I say, after all the money we Jews spend in order to celebrate Pesach, we definitely need that parnassah gate open! :-)
All jokes aside. Apparently, this custom might have some connection to the fact that on the Shabbat after Pesach, forty years after the Jews left Egypt, they finally entered the Land of Israel. For the previous forty hears H” openly provided them with sustenance- maan from Heaven. Once they entered the Land, however, they would have to work; toil for their livelihood, and pray for H” to bestow the blessings on them.
Schlissel (key in Yiddish) Challah is an Ashkenazi custom, but my very informal research led me to find out that many Sephardim do it as well. However, it seems like they adopted the custom from their Ashkenazi brethren.
Anyways, it’s a beautiful custom. I always think of customs like a soul. They add vitality and make Judaism come to life. For those of us who are mothers, maintaining customs is not just important for our own selves. Customs are also important for our very impressionable children, who derive positive Jewish memories and associations for them.
So for Schlissel Challah week I want to share a new challah recipie with you: Flax Seed Challah. If you are on an egg free diet and/or like artisan bread, this recipe is for you. I have yet to meet anyone who does not love this challah, though. It is absolutely amazing. Here it goes.
3 packages of yeast
5 cups warm water
2 TBS sugar
6 cups Better for Bread Flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 TBS kosher salt
6 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup flax seeds
1 cup flax meal (ground flax seeds)
egg for basting (optional)
poppy seeds and/or sesame seeds for decoration (optional)
Add the yeast and 2 TBS sugar to the 5 cups of water up and let it bubble up.
In a bowl add the rest of your ingredients. Once the yeast mixture has bubbled up, add it to the dry ingredients. You could add a little more flour if necessary (like a cup or so). Knead well. (It is very dense, so get ready for an arm workout.) Once your dough is not sticky and you have your round dough ready to rise, rub a little oil on top of the dough with your hands. Let it rise for 2 hours.
Separate Challah with a blessing: Baruch Ata Ado-nai Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, Asher Kideshanu V’mitzvotav V’tzivanu, L’hafrish Challah. For more detailed instructions on how this is done, read my post here.
Pre-heat your oven to 425 F.
Shape it (you will get about 5-6 medium challot). Let the challot rise for about 20 more minutes. Bake them at 425 for 22 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the challot inside for 5 minutes. Take out immediately. Enjoy!
Do you have the custom of making Schlissel Challah? Who did you learn it from?
Thank you to my friend Gila for giving me the flax seed challah recipe years ago.
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