How To Make A Tree-Shaped Challah

  • 01 of 09

    A Beautiful Tree-Shaped Challah

    Tree Challah
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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.

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  • 02 of 09

    Divide the Challah Dough in Half

    Dividing the challah dough in half
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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 challahconsider 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).

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  • 03 of 09

    Divide Half of the Dough into Two Pieces

    Challah dough, divided and ready for shaping
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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.  

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  • 04 of 09

    Shape Dough Ropes for the Tree Trunk

    Two ropes of challah dough for the tree trunk
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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. 

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  • 05 of 09

    Twist the Ropes of Challah Dough Together

    Twisting the challah dough to make a tree trunk
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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.)

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  • 06 of 09

    Shape the Roots

    Shaping roots for the tree challah
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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.  

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  • 07 of 09

    Divide the Remaining Dough

    Divide the remaining dough for the tree leaves
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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. 

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  • 08 of 09

    Shape the Dough into Spirals

    Shaping foliage for the tree challah
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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. 

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  • 09 of 09

    Arrange the Dough Spirals to Create the Tree's Foliage.

    Arranging the tree's foliage
    Miri Rotkovitz

    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!