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Frugal food: Rhodes dough challah: delicious, easy, cheap, homemade

I love making challah.  I love the way it makes the whole house smell and there is nothing like freshly-baked, homemade, warm challah at Shabbat dinner on Friday night. But good challah requires dedicated time; time to prepare the ingredients, time to knead, time to knead again.  You can't let challah dough over-rise and you can't get it into the oven too soon or too late.

Honestly, if I lived in a Jewish community in New York or nearby, I probably wouldn't even bother baking challah most of the time, as there are plenty of delicious and reasonably priced bakery challahs available, or even wonderful packaged brands like Zomicks (which, to me, taste more like cake than bread).  As I live in Denver, Colorado, my purchase choices for challah are limited, pricey, and frankly, don't taste all that great.

I started baking Rhodes dough challah as a great compromise solution.  I make it every week; it is affordable, kosher, delicious, "homemade," and (here's the beauty of it) takes less than ten minutes to prepare. You don't need to worry about whether the water is warm enough for the yeast, or too warm, or whether the extra kneading will wreck your manicure.  You don't need to put load up the dishwasher with your mixing bowls and Kitchen Aid attachments.  Rhodes dough is basically frozen bread dough that comes in several kosher varieties. (Please note, not all Rhodes products are certified kosher, i.e. the Warm and Serve Rolls are not.)  I buy the white bread variety as either loaves or as rolls, depending on what's on sale, and shape it into challah, baste it with egg, top with honey, poppy and sesame seeds and voila, homemade challah.  It's considerably less expensive than say, Kineret challah dough, you get to shape it yourself, and I think it tastes much better. A bag of  Rhodes dough 5 lb. loaves usually runs around $3.50 at Walmart, and depending on how many guests we have, I get about 2-3 Shabbats' worth of challah out of one bag.  Here's how to do it:

  1. Spray down either a cookie sheet or a loaf pan with olive oil cooking spray.  Let the Rhodes dough thaw in the bag to the point where it is soft and pliable, before it starts to rise. 
  2. "Hafrashat challah:" Rhodes white bread dough is kosher (OU pareve), and according to the OU,  "taking" challah is not necessary from Rhodes frozen dough (you can call the OU for the halachic reasons behind it).    For a more detailed explanation of "taking" challah (also know as "hafrashas challah" or "hafrashat challah," please click here
  3. Now you're ready to shape the challah. If you've bought the Rhodes dough loaves, you can either separate a loaf into strands with a knife and braid it (see instructions here), or tie a single knot in a thick strand for round challah.  
  4. If you bought the Rhodes dough in roll shapes, you can make "pull-challah." Give a loaf pan an extra spritz of olive-oil cooking spray, and line the bottom of the pan with a layer of the dough balls.  The dough will rise over the top of the pan, making a bumpy loaf challah that you can either slice or pull apart.
  5. Decide whether you'd like to keep the challah plain, or add raisins, craisins, or any other dried fruit.  If you'd like to add the dried fruit, grab two handful and push them, a few at a time, into the loaves.  Don't be neat or consistent about it.
  6. Once you've shaped the challahs, spray the tops with more of that olive oil cooking spray.  This will keep the loaves from drying out.  Let the challah rise until the dough has doubled (about two hours, depending on how warm it is in your home).
  7. Baste the top with a beaten egg, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with poppy and sesame seeds.  I always use both types of seeds.  I like a lot of texture and crunch in my challahs' crusts.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes, or until the challah gets golden brown. When it looks done, remove immediately. Though this challah is practically foolproof, a good way to ruin it is too keep it in the oven too long.
  9. FYI to whole-wheat fans:  Rhodes also makes a kosher pareve whole-wheat variety of their dough and you can use this to make challah as well, or mix the rolls with the regular white bread dough to make a wheat-and-white version of challah (you can checkerboard it for an elegant looking design).
 Voila!  You have fresh "homemade" challah that your guests will love, your house will smell like a bakery, you've done it for around a quarter of the price of bought challah, and you have much more time to prepare for Shabbos.  Treat yourself to that pre-Shabbos manicure.

And now, you can get a booklet with Rhodes dough recipes and coupons ($1/1 Rhodes bread dough, $0.50/1 Rhodes bread rolls and $0.50/1 off Rhodes cinnamon rolls) by calling 1-800-876-7333 or sending a request with your address to CustomerSatisfaction@rhodesbread.com.


  1. Excellent!! Thank you so much! My rebbetzin told me that she uses Rhode's dough for her challah and I bought a bag but wasn't quite sure what to do with it. I am going to follow your directions tonight and if it turns out well, make it again for Shabbas.

  2. Chaya, did you enter my Rhodes dough giveaway? It's over here: http://frugalskate.blogspot.com/2011/04/ready-to-start-thinking-bread-heres.html It's a wonderful basket full of Rhodes dough goodies!

  3. Thank you for these easy instructions. I am a good cook but have little experience w/ yeasted breads, and truthfully as a single parent I just don't have time right now to make challah from scratch, especially as winter comes and Shabbat starts in the middle of the afternoon! We have a good kosher bakery here, but I know my daughter would love homemade, and it seems more special. This is a great easy introduction for me and will allow me to perform another mitzvah taking challah. The Secret of Challah book that you linked to looks beautiful.

  4. Anonymous9/26/2011

    About Hafrashas Challah for Rhodes bread dough:
    I just spoke with the OU (they are the Hechsher on the Rhodes dough product) to double check about this. According to the OU you do NOT have take challah from the Rhodes frozen dough. The fellow on the line told me that if the dough is not owned by Jews at the time of kneading you are not mechuyav in hafrashas challah and the he said that the OU's policy is if the company is owned by Jews that they (the OU) are mafrish. You can call the OU at 212-613-8241, to verify this if you would like.
    Certainly under those circumstances making a brocha might very well be a Bracha l'Vatalah.

  5. Anonymous, thank you for doing the legwork with the OU and clarifying. I will modify the post later. My strongest recommendation is that you speak to your local Orthodox rabbi. I'm not sure if taking challah with a bracha (if the amounts are correct) would be a bracha l'vatallah or a stringency. I certainly will check with mine. I have been taking challah without a bracha, since the amounts I use each week are so small. Again, I very much appreciate your research. I'll update the post after I speak to my Rav.

  6. Yisroel M4/19/2012

    A similar alternative can be to make a large batch of dough, seperate into challa size portions, and freeze. You can then take them out of your own freezer to thaw, shape, let rise, and be able to get the mitzvah of taking challa also when you make the dough.


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