I am no baker, that’s for sure. However, I have made my fair share of bread in the past and I continue to bake bread occasionally all while trying to understand the magical chemistry that occurs between yeast, water, flour, etc.
Challah bread is a beautiful way to start making bread, and it’s fun to make! It’s rich texture along with a very slight hint of sweetness can be noticed when trying it for the first time. It’s recipe is straightforward and the end result is almost always impressive to look at. I particularly like making challah bread on occasion because I can never seem to get it just right. My braids always open up on top but the end result still looks fantastic and most importantly the taste is great.
Here’s how to do it:
- Ingredients: 1 loaf
- 1 cup water – best if lukewarm or room temperature
- 2 teaspoons of dry yeast – you can use active dry but I tend to use the instant yeast
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of salt (regular salt, not sea salt)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1-2 large egg yolks separated – (Save the egg white in a small bowl, set to the side)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil such as Canola oil – (Do not use olive oil here!)
The first step you need to do is to dissolve your yeast. Place your yeast in a small bowl with the water, adding a little pinch of sugar. Mix well until all is incorporated. At this point you want to let your bowl stand for 5-10 minutes. The yeast should be doing its magic and you should see a cloudy or frothy layer form across the top of the water. If you do not see this your yeast has most likely expired and you will need to start over.
Mix your dry ingredients: Place your 4 cups of flour, your sugar and salt into your stand mixer bowl. Make a well in the middle of your flour and add the oil, eggs and egg yolk. Pour the yeast mixture into the mix and stir together with a wooden spoon until you get a messy dough.
*You can add sprinkles of dry flour as you go – that will help with the wetness of the mix and will assist in it all coming together. (Don’t go overboard however with adding more dry flour at this step – use it sparingly to assist with the dough coming together).
With a stand mixer, fix the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed for roughly 6-8 minutes. If you do not have a stand mixer you can knead by hand for 10 minutes. If the dough feels sticky or wet you can sprinkle dry flour into the mix as you continue to knead. The goal is to get a silky smooth texture that easily forms a ball.
Once the dough is kneaded and form nicely, place the ball of dough into an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for roughly 1-2 hours. The dough needs to double in size – use this visual measure of the indication it is risen enough.
Divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Stretch each part to roughly 14-16 inches in length creating ‘ropes’. Many times while doing this you will notice the ropes tend to shrink up. If this happens let them rest for 5 minutes or so giving the gluten more time to relax.
For a 3-stranded challah you want to gather the ropes at the top, pinching together. Braid the 3 ropes together (as if braiding hair) making sure your braid is relatively tight.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your braided challah on top and sprinkle with a little dry flour. Place a kitchen towel over top and let rest for roughly 1 hour in a warm and dry place.
While your braided challah is still resting (roughly 20 minutes before you put it in the oven), add a little water to your egg whites that you set aside from earlier. Whisk the mixture gently. Brush and coat the challah bread with the egg wash making sure you get into all the crevices and especially on top.
Pre-Heat your oven to 350 F.
Bake for roughly 30-35 minutes, checking every so often to ensure the top is evenly being baked. The challah should be browned thoroughly on top.
Let the Challah cool on a baking rack until just warm. Serve & enjoy!
*You can add caraway seeds to the top before baking to add a little spicier flavor if desired.