The golden, shiny crust on this sweetish and rich Challah bread belies the ease with which it is prepared. The above traditional Jewish bread is still as beautiful as it is delicious: a light, braided loaf nourished with eggs and oil. This soft, pillowy bread is surprisingly simple to bake.
Challah bread is delicious, and you’re missing out if you haven’t tried it before. The sugar inside the dough gives it a rich, eggy flavor, not unlike my brioche recipe, with a hint of sweetness. It’s the golden crust and the fluffy interior is striking contrasts. Making challah from scratch may seem daunting, but this recipe will guide you through each step.
Even though you can pick up a loaf at the bakery, nothing beats the aroma of fresh challah baking in your own kitchen. The aroma will fill your entire home, and when you take it out of the oven, you will be stunned by how beautiful it looks. You can enjoy it plain while it’s still warm thanks to its robust flavor, but it’s also great spread with butter, syrup butter, or jam.
Ingredients for this dish
- Sugar—yeast can’t work without it, and it makes the dough taste better and rise better.
- If you’re using yeast, make sure it hasn’t passed its use-by date. You should get a new packet of yeast if the one you have is past its expiration date.
- Flour — regular all-purpose flour will do for a perfect challah loaf. You can use the all-purpose flour you already have on hand.
- Vegetable oil is what I turn to when making dough. Bread with a tender crumb is the result of adding oil to the dough.
- Richness is provided by a couple of eggs in this dough. To hasten to brown and add shine, you’ll use the egg whites to make an egg wash.
MEASUREMENTS FOR THE INGREDIENTS
- ▢¾ cup warm water (110-120F) (180ml)
- ▢¼ cup sugar (50g)
- ▢2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (.25-ounce/7g packet)
- ▢4 to 4½ cups all-purpose flour (480-540g)
- ▢⅓ cup vegetable oil (80ml)
- ▢2 large eggs
- ▢1 egg yolk (white reserved for egg wash)
- ▢1 teaspoon salt
- ▢Poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping (optional)
MAKE CHALLAH: Step By Step
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a dough hook, combine the sugar, yeast, and warm water. Make it into foam by letting sit.
- Put four cups of flour into the mixer.
- Put in a bowl and mix in the oil, salt, egg, and egg yolk.
- A dough that is both sticky and elastic can be formed by mixing at a medium-low speed. It should make a slapping sound as it clings to the bottom of the bowl but pulls away from the sides. After 6 minutes, if more flour is needed, add one tablespoon at a time. Form a ball out of the dough. Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Leave in a warm (about 75F) place, covered, to rise until doubled in size.
- Invert the dough onto a barely floured work surface. Cut the dough into six even portions. Extend and coil each section into a rope that’s 12 inches in length.
- Fan out the ropes a little by laying all six ropes parallel to one another, pinching the ends together.
- To begin braiding the dough, start on the outside right and bring the rope in over the other two strands. In order to make the outer right knot, start with the second-from-left strand and cross it over the other strands. Move the leftmost strand inward by crossing it over the other two. Change the position of the strand that is second from the right to the far left. This procedure should be repeated until the entire loaf has been braided. Tuck the ends in slightly and pinch the end. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and place the braided loaf on it. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes to an hour, or until almost doubled in size.
- The egg white should be beaten until foamy in a separate bowl. Egg wash and seeds (optional) can be applied to the risen loaf at this point. The top should be a deep golden brown after 20–25 minutes in the oven. Let the loaf cool completely on a wire rack.
Expert Advice on Preparing This Dish
- Whether or not you need as much flour depends on the relative humidity in your home and outside. To prevent the dough from being too sticky, start with 4 cups of flour rather than 412 cups.
- The dough’s rising time will vary based on the ambient temperature in your kitchen. The dough should rise between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your challah dough in an unlit, turned-off oven if your kitchen is chilly.
- Check the temperature of the water using a thermometer; it needs to be between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit for the yeast to activate.
- Make sure you don’t add too much flour to the dough, which is the most common cause of dense bread. Using a scale to measure flour is the most reliable method. If you don’t have a measuring spoon, you can use a knife to level off your flour after you’ve spooned it into a measuring cup.
- Split the dough into thirds and roll each into a rope before proceeding with the recipe. Use a regular three-strand braiding technique, just like you would for a rope or a ponytail.
- Minced garlic or fresh rosemary can be added to the challah dough for a savory twist.
- You can make fantastic French toast or bread pudding with leftover challah bread.
Is prepping this possible?
Get the challah dough ready so that it can be braided. Refrigerate the dough overnight, covered in greased plastic wrap to prevent it from sticking. The dough should be left out on the counter for about an hour in the morning so it can come to room temperature before being baked.
How long will this loaf of bread keep? Where do I put it?
Challah is best eaten the day it is baked, but leftovers can be stored in plastic wrap or an airtight container for up to two days.
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