The custom to make a shlissel challah or key challah the week after Pesach is not without controversy 😉 but it is a beautiful idea and concept that I have been doing for years and look forward to it every year.
What is shlissel / key challah?
Shlissel or key challah, is the tradition to eat bread in the shape of a key or with a key inside – this is said to bring good livelihood.
This custom is based on the idea that just like the Jews in the dessert received manna everyday from God – we too, get our livelihood from God. We need to have faith everyday and remember that the “key” to our livelihood is in God’s hands. While we must do everything in our ability to take care of ourselves, we must trust that we are being taken care of.
The manna began to fall in the Hebrew month of Iyar which we enter into immediately after the Passover holiday. This is why the custom is to have the key challah this Shabbat.
Segula for Parnassa
The shlissel challah custom is said to be a Segula (loosely translated as superstition or good omen) for abundant livelihood in the upcoming year.
Key in challah after Passover
Some people have the custom of placing an actual key (usually their house key) inside a regular shaped challah. Some tips for this method:
- Use an all metal key (no plastic!)
- Wash your key with soap and water
- Wrap in tinfoil before baking
- Remove key before slicing into the challah
How to make a shlissel / key challah?
There are two ways to do this custom. One way is to make the challah in the shape of a key like I did below. Another way is to actually bake a real key in your challah, or at the bottom of your challah.
You can choose one or the other OR just do one of each like I do 🙂
Whatever you decide to do, just make a batch of my basic challah dough and if you want to shape it like a key you can follow the braiding instructions below or you can get creative and come up with your own key shape, have fun with it.
If you want to put a key in your challah I recommend washing your key very well with soap and water and then wrapping it in tinfoil before placing it somewhere in the challah or on top or bottom, don’t forget to remove the key before eat so no one breaks a tooth!
Shlissel challah pictures
Shlissel Challah is super trendy on social media in the last few years. This has encouraged others to make key challah and post their photos plus it creates a great resource for new key shape ideas – just search Instagram or Pinterest for “shlissel challah” or “key challah” for lots of great images!
Love this recipe? Try these other easy recipes:
Try this Garlic Challah topping on this Shlissel challah or your regular weekly challah!
Did you try this recipe?
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- Bosch Mixer (preferred) or Kitchen Aid – optional
- Rolling Pin
- Bench Scraper
- Kitchen Scale
- Pastry brush
- 4½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 Tablespoon white sugar
- 2 cups warm water
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 L egg
- 1 Tablespoon pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
- 7-8 cups bread flour or all purpose (1 kilo)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tablespoon water
- sesame seeds optional
- In the bowl of your Bosch mixer fitted with the dough hook mix yeast, 1 Tablespoon of sugar and water.
- Let sit for 5 minutes.
- And in the rest of the challah ingredients, except for the flour.
- Add 7 cups of flour (in Israel a 1 kilo bag) and turn your mixer on. Start on low and gradually increase to full speed.
- If dough is very sticky add flour by the ½ cup.
- If dough is ok, or even a little sticky, keep mixing for about 5 minutes.
- Turn off mixer and let dough rest for 3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes of rest, touch the dough with your fingers. If it is sticky, add flour by the Tablespoon.
- If dough is not sticky, turn on mixer once more for another 3-4 minutes. The dough should "clean" the sides of the bowl.
- If the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour by the Tablespoon and continue the mixing, resting until the bowl is clean. This may take some time, be patient.
- When the dough is the right consistency after letting it rest 2-3 minutes remove it from the mixing bowl on to the counter and form a large ball.
- Cover the bottom of a large bowl with a little bit of canola oil (no more than 1/2 teaspoon).
- Place the dough ball into the bowl and coat all sides with the oil from the bottom of the bowl.
- Cover the bowl loosely with plastic saran wrap and cover that with a large kitchen towel.
- Leave the dough to rise for 1 hour in a warm space, near the oven or near a window with sun if possible.
- After 1 hour the dough should have doubled in size. Punch it down gently to deflate some of the air.
- Cover and let rise another hour.
Braiding: KEY shape
- Take the dough out of the bowl and set directly on the counter.
- Using a bench scraper split the dough as follows:1 large ball, 3 medium balls and 2 small balls.Keep out the largest ball of dough and cover the others.
- Divide the large ball of dough into 4 even balls (use your kitchen scale for accuracy). And roll them into long strands.
- Braid the dough using the 4 strand method detailed in my challah post.
- Pinch the ends together and place challah in the denter of a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover with a towel.
- Next take out one of the 3 medium balls and divide into 3 very long even strands.
- Shape these into a long braid. Attach both ends of the braid together to form a circle.
- Repeat this process with the other 2 medium balls of dough.
- Place these 3 circle braids on the top of the 4 braid challah on the baking sheet, to form a key shape.
- Braid the 2 small balls of dough into tiny 3 or 2 braid challahs, as you wish.
- Place those on the bottom of the 4 braid challah.
- Place folded tinfoil in between the small braids as well as in the center of the 3 circles so they don't close in on eachother during the baking.
- Pre-heat oven to 350° and allow braided challah to rise for 20 minutes.
- In a small bowl whisk together egg yolk and water.
- Gently brush egg wash onto the whole challah and top with sesame seeds if using.
- Place tray with challah in the pre-heated oven and bake for 25-35 mintues. Tops and bottoms should be golden brown and if you tap the bottom of the challah it should sound hollow.
- Turn the challah over and let cool upside down in order to prevent the bottom from getting soggy. You can also let it cool on a wire cooling rack.