The Hebrew word “challah” does not actually mean bread, but rather refers to the tithe of the bread that was given as a gift to the ancient priests (Numbers 15:20). Exactly when the term challah began to be applied to the bread eaten on Shabbat is unclear.

Without the Temple, the complete mitzvah of Challah cannot be fulfilled (as the kohain cannot eat the piece unless ritually pure). However, the mitzvah is still maintained in part by separating of a portion of dough during the baking process. Today, therefore, if one is baking a large amount of dough (generally 3 lbs 10 oz. of flour or more), one is obligated to “take challah” with a blessing before baking the dough.

To “take challah,” a small ball of dough is taken and wrapped in foil, for once the blessing is said, the separated challah has an elevated status. The following blessing is recited:

Ba’ruch Ah’tah Ah’doh’nai Eh’lo’hay’nu Melech ha’o’lam ah’sher kidishanu b’mitz’vo’tav v’tzee’vanu l’haph’reesh challah min ha’eesah.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us in His commandments and commanded us to separate the challah from the dough.

If one made dough using less then the amount required for the blessing, but more than 2 lbs 10 oz., one should separate the challah but not make a blessing. (Since there are different opinions regarding the exact amount of flour, please check with your local rabbi.)

The separated challah must now be either burned in an empty oven or buried. Once the challah has been burned, it should be disposed of in a respectful manner.