Home Beauty recipe How a non-Jewish Swiss baker’s challah braided the internet

How a non-Jewish Swiss baker’s challah braided the internet


The Nosher via JTA – Challah’s baker Katharina Arrigoni lives in a town in northern Switzerland with 3,000 inhabitants, none of whom – including Arrigoni – are Jewish. Completely self-taught, Arrigoni has never tasted any other challah than his own creations. Yet thanks to the power of the internet and Instagram, Arrigoni has become an international sensation shaping challah.

Arrigoni is the founder of Besondersgut (German for “particularly good”), a bakery and pastry school located about 24 km from Zurich. She started cooking six years ago at the age of 42 after a terrible traffic accident. Needing a distraction, Arrigoni says she spent “days and nights in American bakery forums.” She quickly started posting recipes and photographing what she was cooking. Bread classes taught by Arrigoni followed, as did his first book, “Swiss Bread”, in 2017.

Zopf, a braided bread that resembles challah, is a popular Swiss bread. Arrigoni grew up eating it and his mother taught him how to cook it. While the recipe is similar to challah – except that the zopf is made with milk rather than water and butter instead of oil – Arrigoni only encountered challah three years ago. , on the Internet. She was “immediately turned on” by the bread, captivated by their beauty and by the community of challah bakers from around the world who connected to it. She started following challah bakers on Instagram from Israel, England and the United States.

“When I started making challahs, I quickly found myself with Uri Schef [founder of Lehamim Bakery in Israel and Breads Bakery in New York]”said Arrigoni.” He inspired me to be creative and to try new techniques.

Inspired by the art of Scheft, Arrigoni developed her own style of challah making. “I didn’t want to copy what other people are doing, so I tried to find new techniques or integrate techniques from French bakers. I also try to create my own designs, ”she said.

Uri Scheft. (Courtesy of Lehamim / via JTA)

During the pandemic, challah bakers began taking note of her five-strand spiral challah, including a flat braid with a bead chain in the center inspired by a French loaf, “rosary bread”. His instructional video has gone viral. To date, she has 70,000 followers on Instagram, and challah bakers like Karma Bread bakery in London, among others, thank her on Instagram for her influence on their fitness techniques.

Swiss pastry chef Katharina Arrigoni. (Authorization / via JTA)

One of Arrigoni’s goals is to “make a perfect challah and stage it photographically like an art object”. The positive feedback from the Jewish community on social media prompted them to continually try new things.

Last fall, she published her second cookbook, “Favorite Breads”, which is not yet available in English. The book, which received a gold medal by the Swiss Gourmet Book Awards, features recipes for laundry breads (like pretzels), baguettes, zopf, and challah, including vegan challah. You’ll also find photographs of her braiding techniques and smooth, skillfully shaped challahs.

Check out these tips from the challah master for an easy to handle and beautifully shaped dough:

For the smoothest dough with the best texture, make a pre-fermentation dough.

Arrigoni assembles a “poolish” the night before making her challah consisting of 20% of the total flour used in her recipe (she uses spelled flour), an equal amount of water and a few grains of yeast. The next day, the sparkling poolish, which should have doubled in size, is mixed with the ingredients of the challah. The spelled-based poolish gives you a super smooth dough that is easy to work with and stretches without tearing.

Work the cold dough.

For a perfect challah with a smooth texture, Arrigoni cools its dough. The ideal temperature for the dough after kneading, she says, is 74 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Use cold ingredients if necessary so as not to exceed this temperature.

This technique by Swiss pastry chef Katharina Arrigonia features a flat braid with a ball chain in the center inspired by a French bread, “rosary bread”. (Authorization / via JTA)

Do not let the dough rise too long before shaping it.

About 45 to 60 minutes is sufficient.

Before braiding, weigh each strand to the exact gram.

All strands should weigh and be the same shape.

Practice new braiding techniques with mountaineering ropes.

She’s Swiss, you know! You don’t want to practice on real dough because “on the living object you only have one chance!

Flour your wicks before cooking.

To prevent the strands from merging into each other when baking, very lightly flour the finished shaped strands before braiding.

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