01 of 09
A Beautiful Tree-Shaped Challah
A beautiful braided challah is always a classic, but sometimes it's fun to break out a new shape for a special occasion. This tree-shaped challah was inspired by Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees. But it would also be lovely for life cycle events that celebrate an addition to the family tree, such as a baby naming, bris, engagement party, or post-Aufruf or Shabbat Chatan luncheon. Read on for photo-illustrated step-by-step instructions for making a tree-shaped challah.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Divide the Challah Dough in Half
Before you can start shaping, you'll need some challah dough. This Vegan Water Challah makes a supple, easy-to-shape dough. Another nice option, especially for Tu B'Shevat, is this Honey Almond Challah (Neither dough tends to puff significantly during the second rise, so your tree should retain a nicely defined shape.)
Mix and knead the dough, and allow it to rise. After the initial rise, punch the dough down and divide the dough into two roughly equal halves. (Don't worry if they're not exactly the same size.)
Tip: If you're making dough from your own large-quantity recipe in order to do hafrashat challah, consider how much dough you typically use for a large braided loaf; that should be enough to make one tree challah. (This will be about 1/5 to 1/6 of the dough made with a 5-lb bag of flour).Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Divide Half of the Dough into Two Pieces
Next, take one of the large dough balls and divide it in half. These are the pieces you'll use to form the trunk of the tree in the next steps.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Shape Dough Ropes for the Tree Trunk
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper. Take one of the smaller dough balls you just created, and shape it into a long rope. Lay the rope on the baking sheet. Repeat with the second of the smaller dough balls, making another rope of the same length and diameter. Lay the second rope next to the first.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Twist the Ropes of Challah Dough Together
Pinch the tops of the ropes together to secure. Lay one rope over the other, and continue alternating the ropes to form a tight twist. (You can lift the ropes off of the baking sheet if you find it easier to create the twist this way.) Do not pinch the bottom ends of the twist together—you'll be shaping them into the tree roots. Position the completed twist in the center of the baking sheet, allowing a little extra space at the top if possible. (This will give you more room to arrange the tree's foliage.)Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Shape the Roots
At the bottom of the twist, arrange the dough to resemble tree roots. You can simply spread out the bottom of the twist in opposite directions. Or, for more detail, cut into one or both of the pieces of dough, and shape into roots.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Divide the Remaining Dough
Take the remaining large piece of dough from Step 1 and divide it into 5 pieces of fairly equal size. You'll be using these to make the foliage of the tree.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Shape the Dough into Spirals
Roll and stretch each of the dough balls between your hands to form ropes. Take one of the ropes and curl it around itself to form a spiral. Leave a small tail at the end of each spiral -- you'll use these to attach the spirals to the tree trunk.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Arrange the Dough Spirals to Create the Tree's Foliage.
Arrange the dough spirals side-by-side around the top of the tree trunk. Lay the tails of each spiral over or under the trunk to secure them to the challah. For visual interest, alternate the direction of some of the spirals.
Cover the challah with a clean tea towel and allow to rise according to recipe directions. Preheat the oven as directed, brush with an egg wash, and bake. Transfer the challah to a rack to cool. Enjoy!