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Frugal Shlissel Challah

UPDATE: This is my Shlissel Challah post from last year (updated with some 2012 photos). I hope to bake Shlissel Challah again this year, but I'm so busy, I won't get to it until tomorrow morning, so forgive me for recycling last year's post. Please send me pictures of your Shlissel Challah and I'll be happy to publish them here!









Today is the Thursday-before-the-first-Shabbat-after-Passover.  That means it's time to bake Shlissel Challah!

What is Shlissel Challah?  Literally, it means "key" challah in Yiddish.  It is an old custom among Ashkenazic Jews to either place the key to their house inside the first post-Passover challah, or to make the challah in the actual shape of a key, and it is considered a "segulah for parnassah" or a foretoken for prosperity for the coming year.   If you are interested in the Jewish sources for this wonderful custom, please click on this wonderful explanatory post here.  If you are able to read Hebrew, here is a special prayer for recitation when you are making your shlissel challah.  Read the laws of Hafrashat Challah (separating the challah) here.

For me, the few days after Passover are among the busiest of the year....not quite as crazybusy as the few days before Passover, but busy nevertheless. After a week away from work I am scrambling to catch up, besides the fact that my kitchen is still recovering from being "turned over" from Passover mode and my cupboards and fridge still need to be refilled with regular food. I confess that I don't have the time to make challah from scratch. But I do love this custom and won't be letting the first Shabbat after Passover go without my shlissel challah. So I'm turning to Rhodes dough.

I'm reposting below my recipe for Rhodes dough challah, originally published back in February, with additional instructions for making it into shlissel challah.  If you've never used Rhodes dough, get ready to fall in love. It's a great shortcut to making challah from scratch, and you can still customize your baked end-product enough to make your "homemade" challah your own, without spending a ton of time on preparation.

If you make shlissel challah this year, please please please send me your pictures!  I will happily publish pictures of my readers' shlissel challah in this post, especially the more creative ones that are shaped like a key!

I really get into this custom; can you tell?  And now, the reworked Rhodes dough recipe:

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:" though Rhodes white bread dough is kosher (OU pareve), challah is not "taken" so you need to take a small piece of the dough (generally without a bracha if you are using only one bag, though please consult your Rabbi on whether or not to say the blessing), set it aside, and burn it in the oven when there is nothing else in there.  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 decided to bake the challah into the shape of a key, here a great video from the Kosher Channel that shows you three easy options for shaping it, but feel free to get creative!
  4. A couple of words of warning if you are going to bake your house key into the challah.  First of all, keys are notoriously dirty things, as they are found in the bottoms of purses and pockets, dropped on the floor, tossed on top of the circular in the junk mail, etc.  Make sure you give that key a nice washing with dish detergent before baking it in.  You should also wrap it carefully in aluminum foil before placing it in the challah dough. Second, unless you want to use up all that prosperity on an unplanned trip to the dentist's office, you should place it in a very easy to locate spot, right in the center-top of the challah, so that you can find it right away when you serve your challah.  You don't want to be biting into that key.  Seriously.
  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" shlissel 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.

Enjoy your Rhodes dough shlissel challah. May we all have a year filled with prosperity and fortune!


  1. I made shlissel challah today! Here's a video of the process for shaping challah like a key which is a lot of fun.

  2. oops here is the link to the video

  3. I made shlissel challah today, too. Love the suggestion about adding fruit to the dough. I've never tried that but it would be a really nice variation.

  4. Rivki, would love some pictures, if you would email them to frugalskate@gmail.com! Renee, thanks for the great instructional video. The link you posted in the comments (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LToloFwVmn) contains an error...YouTube won't let me view it. Is there another url or do you have photos?

  5. Thanks so much for the pdf of the tefillah! Just found you via google, do you know about my site
    creativejewishmom.com? Would be so grateful if you'd help me spread the word in your community in Denver. Thanks so very much and all the best!


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