Does ‘The Great British Baking Show’ Know What Challah Is?

Paul Hollywood definitely knows good bread. But does he know challah?

We’re here today with a very important investigation on The Nosher: Does the Great British Baking Show know what challah is? We are kind of concerned that they don’t.

In season 5, episode 2 of the beloved reality competition show in which British home-bakers attempt to show off their chops, the bakers “tackle Paul [Hollywood’s] recipe for a plaited loaf, having an even, golden bake. The braiding is sure to confuse some of the bakers.” (U.S. Netflix calls this season 1, episode 2 of “The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings,” which was just released, which is why we’re talking about it now.)

Paul Hollywood, one of the judges on the show, has a recipe for an 8-strand plaited loaf in his book How to Bake (you can see it here). While it’s much more common to find it in 3-strand or 6-strand form, let’s call this “plaited loaf” what it is: challah.

As Twitter user Dara Kaye wrote, “Watching an old GBBO episode where the technical challenge is clearly challah, but everyone is calling it “plaited bread,” and Paul Hollywood says braiding breads ‘a skill which is dying off.’ Is it possible no one on this show has even one Jewish friend?”

It is quite possible that Paul, and everyone else on the show, has no Jewish friends, which is why no one recognizes the “plaited loaf” as challah. As a separate Twitter user replied to the above tweet, “As a British Jew I can vouch an amazing number of my countrymen have never met a Jew (as far as they are aware). If they know a Jew, they have likely never had a conversation about food.” (Relatedly, Britain has been dealing with rising anti-Semitism. Oy.)

Let’s just focus in on Paul and fellow judge Mary Berry’s commentary on challah.

Great British Baking Show

In the clip, Mary says, “This is a great thing to make for a sort of festive occasion.” Why, yes, Mary, have you heard of Shabbat? Where, for centuries, Jews have been baking challah?!

Great British Baking Show

It’s Paul’s quote — “[braiding bread] is a skill which is dying off” — that bothers us the most. First of all, Paul, this is not a skill that is dying off! There are plenty of Jews in the world who know how to braid challah. Another Twitter user pointed out, in Paul’s cookbook, he writes that the challah loaf is “traditionally served at Passover.” Paul, NO! There’s no bread on Passover! It’s like the only rule! He also spells challah “cholla,” which, yikes. Did not one Jewish person read over this recipe?

Paul Hollywood
The worst challah recipe.

Is “Sylvia Woolf” even real? Why does Paul call it cholla? Why does no one realize the whole thing about Passover is you can’t eat leavened bread?! Why has no one fixed this yet (it was published in 2012), and why is it so readily available on the internet?

Back to the show: No one really does a good job in the challenge, and we have to conclude that none of them know what challah is. Perhaps a Jewish baker would have won this round?

Header Image via The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings on Netflix

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