Heather's How to: Challah Bake Program Tips

One of the advantages of remote work has been the ability for me to make challah each week for Shabbat. As people started noticing my new hobby, they asked me if I could lead Zoom challah tutorials. Zoom challah baking is a lot of fun and can sometimes be easier than baking challah as a group in person. Here are a few tips for your online challah baking programs:

First, decide what type of challah bake you will be doing- will you be mixing the dough, braiding, or both? Regardless of the program you choose, be sure to include the recipe and list of ingredients for participants in your marketing materials. Resend this information a few days before your program.

If you are only planning to mix the dough together, have the ingredients measured out and ready to go. You will also want to have a spatula, whisk or other baking utensils within arms-reach. Make sure your tech set-up allows for good viewing for your attendees. Is the area well-lit? If not, consider using a ring light. I suggest you sign in using both a laptop and a phone attached to a tripod. The laptop allows participants to see you and for you to see the chat box. A phone or second device attached to a tripod allows participants to see inside of your mixing bowl. To prevent echoing, do not join the Zoom audio on your second device. Use the spotlight tool on Zoom to highlight the speaker and the “challah cam” for your attendees. If participants are braiding and baking on their own, provide information regarding how long the dough should rise beforehand and give them baking instructions. 

If you are only planning to braid together, make sure the attendees know to arrive with their dough already made. Some participants may want to use their favorite challah recipe, but others will need you to provide the recipe. If so, let them know how far in advance of the event they should start mixing their dough and if you want them to divide it into a certain number of dough balls. Be sure to follow the tech instructions listed above, especially if you are doing a unique braid or decorations, so they can see the demonstration clearly. Make sure that you braid slowly, and, if possible, have a second batch of dough so you can show them twice. If someone is struggling, you can spotlight them to help troubleshoot. After the braiding/decorating is done, remind the participants of the remaining instructions. Is there a second rise? Do they need to use an egg wash before putting the challah in the oven? How long should they bake it for? How will they know when it is done?

If you plan on mixing and braiding the dough together, I recommend asking people to join 15-20 minutes before your program so everyone can mix the dough together. While the dough rises, there should be a planned activity before the braiding begins.

Since your program will end before the challah is done baking, ask people to share photos of their finished challah either by email or on social media channels.

A virtual challah bake is a great program to do on Shabbat, but you can also tie it to holidays or special events. Do a round challah baking tutorial for the High Holy Days, make a pink challah for Breast Cancer Awareness month, a rainbow challah for Pride, or a king cake challah for Mardi Gras.

Now that you have the tools, I hope you create your very own virtual challah-making program. These programs are meant to be engaging and stress-free. Remember to have fun, take lots of pictures, and eat as much as you can! Happy baking!