Alcohol-Infused Challah | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

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Alcohol-Infused Challah

Get into the Adar spirit
Alcohol-Infused Challah


1 batch

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What could be better than a “shikker challah,” a challah infused with alcohol, to fulfill the Talmudic opinion of Rava: “One must drink on Purim until that person cannot distinguish between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai.” (Megillah 7b)

I substitute rum for the arak in a recipe often used by Jewish communities from Greece, Morocco, and Turkey. With some poppy seeds thrown into the mix, its Purim authenticity increased. (There is a play on the Yiddish word for poppy seed, mohn, and the name, Haman.)

Shaping the dough into triangle forms, like hamantaschen, works, too. Not only does this combination of liquor and poppy honor Purim, it blends Sephardi and Ashkenazi traditions.

It’s Adar. Time to be happy with a challah.

Shaping Options

Some ideas for shaping (I fashioned each of these from the one batch of dough):

1. Form the dough into triangles and top with poppy seeds

2. Divide the dough into equal parts for braids by weight. Flatten each braid with a rolling pin and place a tablespoon or so of filling onto each and then tightly roll up to form each strand. Braid as usual.

3. Halve the dough into same sized rounds. Place bottom into round pan. Layer with poppy seed filling. Place second round of dough on top of filling, allowing the filling to “leak” to form a smiley face. Then twist a braid around the top edge of the circle.



1 teaspoon plus 1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup water (105º to 115º)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

7-8 cups unbleached white bread flour

4 tablespoons sesame oil

½ cup whole milk or almond milk to make it pareve

4 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon rum or other preferred liquor

¼ cup dark raisins plumped in tiny amount of liqueur and drained or use blueberries to give a royal Queen Esther tint

FILLING: poppy seed from can or home made – see recipes online

EGG WASH: one egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water


Dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in the water in a small bowl. Stir in the yeast and set aside in a draft-free place to proof (about 10 minutes). The yeast will be ready when it is bubbly.

While waiting for the yeast to proof, put 1 cup flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir in well. The mixture will be somewhat liquid, thicker than pancake batter, but not stiff enough to shape into a dough by hand. Place the mixing bowl and dough into a plastic bag and set aside for 45 minutes in a draft-free place. The flour mixture will bubble up and begin to rise, forming what is called a sponge.

After 45 minutes have passed, add 4 tablespoons sesame oil, milk, beaten eggs, 1 ½ cups sugar, salt, and rum to the sponge. Begin to knead in the remaining 6-7 cups of flour. Mix and knead steadily until the dough becomes soft, moist, and not sticky. You will use more or less flour depending on the flour and the humidity of the day. As it achieves its consistency, knead in the raisins and roll the dough into a ball. 

Wash out the same large mixing bowl used for making the dough. Place about 1 tablespoon oil (sesame or other) the bowl. Roll the dough ball around in the oil a bit to cover it with oil. Cover with a plastic bag and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 ½ to 2 hours). Or place in the refrigerator overnight. 

Egg wash and sprinkle tops with poppy seeds as desired.

Shape as above.

Bake bigger breads for 30-40 minutes. Bake smaller triangles for 10-15 minutes. After 10 minutes of baking, brush again with egg wash and place back in the oven for the rest of the bake time. Double check that the bread is baked through with a food thermometer. Remove from pans and set on a rack to cool.

The recipe is adapted from Rabbi Robert Sternberg’s The Sephardic Kitchen: The Healthful Food and Rich Culture of the Mediterranean Jews


Regina Frishwasser,  Jewish American Cook Book

Robert Sternberg, The Sephardic Kitchen: The Healthy Food and Rich Culture of the Mediterranean Jews

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and Judaism around the world based on her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao (second edition, Turner Publishing). She co-curated the exhibit “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” for Temple Emanu-El’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum, New York City, now available to travel to your community. Most recently she has launched the chocolatebabkaproject, an exploration of celebratory breads.

For more about the #chocolatebabkaproject.