Challah is a type of Jewish Bread eaten during Sabbath. It was one of the first bread I started baking because of its intriguing shape. It looks complex and mysterious but once you master the braiding techniques it’s so much fun to make.
I usually make it for guest’s brunch; it’s a great centerpiece with a spread of compound butters, jams and preserves. Leftover challah is the best thing as it makes delectable french toast and bread pudding. Traditional challah follows Jewish dietary laws called Kashrut so bread needs to be parve: no dairy or meat but here I am using dairy as I like the taste of butter better than oil. Bread baking may seem like a daunting task but with little audacity and perseverance you will master it in no time. Pay close attention to the texture and volume of the dough than time; time given are only a guideline as with room temperature the overall rising time changes a lot. Once you have the loaf in oven the house smells heavenly and you would transport to your favorite bakery.
Makes 1 loaf
- 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 120 grams/ 1/2 cup water, at 105°F
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- 360 grams/ 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil/ melt butter, slightly cooled
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, optional
- In a medium size bowl, add water, yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar, mix well. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, until it’s activated or bubbly.
- Meanwhile whisk together remaining sugar, flour and salt in stand mixer bowl, set aside.
- Add 2 eggs, oil/melted butter (cooled) and honey, mix well with whisk.
- Make a well in center of flour mix, pour the yeast mix and start mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead for 10 to 12 minutes, dough should be soft, shiny and elastic. Alternatively can be kneaded with hand, resist adding extra flour.
- Grease a bowl with little oil, put the dough in it turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 t0 1 1/2 hour, until double in size.
Braid and bake
- Punch down the dough and divide it into 3 parts. If using scale each will be about 220 grams.
- Working with one piece at a time on a lightly floured surface. Roll it into 7 x 14 inch rectangle, sprinkle ⅓ filling and roll like a jelly roll. Pinch the ends to seal and roll to make it 16 inch long. Repeat for other piece and keeping rest covered with a towel. Braid and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment or silicone mat.
- Whisk the remaining egg and brush the loaf with it. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until double in size about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Halfway through rising time preheat the oven to 375°F with rack little lower than middle.
- Brush the challah one more time with egg, sprinkle with sesame if using and bake for 30 minutes, until internal temperature is 195°F. After 15 minutes remove and brush with egg wash in the exposed part for even color and if you feel the top is getting too dark, cover with aluminum foil by just putting it on top.
- Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.