This special Purim challah basket, which was inspired by our February book A Persian Princess, makes for a delicious edible centrepiece on your table, or as a mishloach manot gift to a friend. A big thank you to Challah Mummy Allegra Benitah for sharing her beautiful baking secrets with us.
- 1 kilo of plain flour
- 1½ cups of lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon active dried yeast
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar (plus one more teaspoon to mix in with the yeast)
- 3 eggs (2 for the dough and 1 for the egg wash)
- ½ tablespoon of salt
- ¼ cup of sunflower oil
- Spices as required (cinnamon, sumac, zaatar)
- Dried fruit to decorate (dried apricots, prunes, cranberries, cherries)
- Rolling pin
- Square or round cake tin turned upside down and covered in baking paper
Pour the lukewarm water into a big mixing bowl, add the extra teaspoon of caster sugar and then carefully dissolve the yeast into the water. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface of the water, pour in about a third of the flour, followed by the 2 eggs, the rest of the caster sugar, the salt and the oil. Add a tablespoon of your favourite spice at this point.
Get your hands into the dough and combine the mixture, adding flour little by little as you go, until you get a big ball of dough. You will know when the dough is ready to knead because it shouldn't stick to your hands any more.
Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour, tip your dough out onto it and knead each piece for 5 minutes, adding a bit of flour if the dough becomes too sticky again. Drizzle a little bit of leftover sunflower oil around the mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and cover with cling film.
Leave the dough to rise for about 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size. Once the dough has risen, give it a little punch to knock the air back out of it. Place the dough back on the floured work surface and knead it a little bit, with a bit of flour if needed, so that it's ready to shape.
Roll the dough out into a large, thin and flat rectangle and cut long, thin strips of dough using knife or pizza cutter. Place strips of dough over the top of the upturned baking tin about 5cm apart and facing the same direction. Place more strips of dough about 5cm apart in the other direction so that you form a lattice, extended hashtag type design with the strips of dough over the top of the tin. Weave the strips into each other by placing them under and over each other alternately. Please see the photos for lattice inspiration!
Trim any excess dough which is left over once the strip hits the table or baking tray. You may also choose to make a separate flat lattice to act as a lid for the treasure box.
Once you are happy with the shape, cover the dough with a clean tea towel or cling film and let it rise again for half an hour. Towards the end of this time, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C and egg wash the dough with a pastry brush. Bake the challah for 20 minutes at the bottom of the oven. Once cooled, carefully ease the challah lattice off the upturned baking tin and turn it upside down to form the base of the treasure box. Fill the treasure box with chocolate coins and other goodies and decorate with dried fruit.
Allegra Benitah is a Tax Solicitor and Law Lecturer by day and the Challah Mummy by night. Allegra enjoys making eye-catching and beautiful designs out of Challah Bread and sharing them with her family and friends. Find out more about Allegra's baking at @allegrabenitah on Instagram.
March 1, 2022