This bread was a lot of fun, actually. I already new Laura would enjoy this one, since it has a little added sugar, but I was actually very interested by the cultural and religious significance of this bread to the Jewish people. Peter Reinhart's intro in BBA is helpful in this regard. This is of course, the Sabbath bread of the Jewish faith, and the bread is traditionally eaten at each of the three Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch and Saturday late-afternoon). Challah commemorates the manna (bread) that fell from the heavens while the Israelites wandered the dessert for forty years. This is also, apparently, symbolized in the sprinkling of the poppy or sesame seeds over the bread before it's baked.
I had my reservations following the shaping stage, because the bread hadn't risen a lot during proofing, and an elastic, almost pasta-like feel when I was rolling out the strands for braiding. However, it doubled very quickly after shaping, and then had incredible oven spring. You can actually see this in the first picture, where there is a lack of any seeds in between the braids.
The Challah turned out wonderful. Very soft, sweet creamy bread. But of course, my Challah experience is very limited. To really see if I passed the test, we brought over one of the loaves to our neighbour, Mya, who just happens to be Jewish. The first thing she remarked after I told her I brought her Challah, was "on Friday night, how appropriate!" Watching her, her husband and her two sons, aged one and three, dig into the Challah right at the door with their bare hands made me smile! And it was a huge it -- "this is EXACTLY like Challah i'm used to!!," Mya exclaimed. I left with the heart-warming thought that "breaking bread" remains a fundamental expression of our common humanity.