Bosnian Food Jewish Food

Barhes – The Challah Bread of Sarajevo’s Ashkenazi Jews

Ashkenazi Jews have been living in Sarajevo since at least 1686, but their numbers grew quickly under Austro-Hungarian rule, allowing them to move to Bosnia & Herzegovina from other parts of the empire. One such family were the parents of Nenad Radošević (1912 – 2008, born: Natan Reiss) whose parents both originated from Galicia, modern-day Ukraine. In his published memoirs he described how his mother made ‘barhes‘ at their home in Sarajevo every Friday – an egg-enriched bread known as ‘Challah’ to many Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi communities. He described how a braid of 4 – 5 parts was made for Friday evening and another of 7 – 8 parts, sprinkled with poppy seeds was made for Saturday lunch.

How to Make It

A loaf of Jewish challah bread with poppy seeds on top

For the dough
500g plain flour
120ml lukewarm water
1 x 7g packet of yeast
70g caster sugar
60ml light olive oil
3 large eggs
2 tsp. salt

For the egg wash
1 large egg
2 tsp. water
1tsp. caster sugar
Poppy seeds to sprinkle

  1. Mix together the lukewarm water, yeast and 1 tsp. of caster sugar. Let them sit for 5 – 10 minutes until foamy
  2. In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt before making a well in the middle and adding the oil, yeast mixture and beaten eggs.
  3. Begin mixing with a spoon, once dough starts to come together turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for at least 10 minutes. Add a little extra flour if necessary but the dough will remain sticky.
  4. After kneading, place dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise until doubled in size (around 1 – 1.5 hrs)
  5. Remove the dough, divide into three equal parts and roll into rope shapes. Lay them out side by side before pinching the three together at one end only.
  6. Plait the dough by picking up the far left rope and taking it over to lie in the gap between the middle and far right. Then take the right rope and put into the gap between the middle and far left, repeating till the end.
  7. Once plaited, pinch the ends and tuck under the loaf, transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave to rise until doubled in size (about 1 hr).
  8. Finally, brush over with egg wash, sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake for 25 minutes at 180C (160C fan)
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