It is customary to have round challahs instead of braided challahs for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holidays marking the Jewish new year. The round shape of the challah is supposed to represent cyclical time and new beginnings. I already perfected a challah recipe that I love, but this was my first time braiding it into a round shape. Although the finished loaf looks complicated, the braiding process is really easy! Here’s how you can follow along (paying more attention to the pictures than the text if you’re a visual learner):
When you’re ready to braid your challah, separate the dough into four even pieces. Use your hands to roll and flatten each piece into a long strand, about 2 feet long. The strands should be relatively equal in length. Place two of the strands parallel to each other. Take the third strand, and place it perpendicular to the first two strands, weaving it between the two so that it crosses on top of the first strand and below the second strand. Do the same thing with your fourth piece, except that the fourth piece should cross above the second strand and below the first strand. Move all of the strands close to each other so that there is no hole in the center of the knot. You should have 4 sets of parallel strands.
For each set of parallel strands, take the strand that comes out from under the knot and cross it over the strand that comes out of the top of the knot so that the two strands form a 90º angle. The two strands should now be perpendicular to each other, and you should have four new sets of parallel strands.
Continue locating the four sets of parallel strands of dough and crossing the strand that comes out of the bottom of the knot over the strand that comes out of the top of the knot so that the two strands form a 90º angle.
Once your strands of dough shorten to a point that you can no longer cross them, tuck the ends of each strand under the loaf.
You now have a round challah! Transfer the loaf to a baking sheet, and proceed with your challah recipe (let the loaf rise, brush with an egg wash, and then bake). Happy holidays!