Challah

by Sara on December 16, 2010

Braided Challah

On a snowy and blustery day, I like nothing more than to sit back with a hot beverage, the scent of something baking wafting through my little condo.

This past weekend, it was icy, rainy, snowy, then blustery, so I decided to bake bread. For awhile now, I’ve wanted to try Challah, the non-buttery counterpart to brioche. Both are egg breads, but Challah uses oil rather than butter, and water rather than milk (though I’ve been known to use water in my brioche due to that lactose issue). I’m not even going to touch the Jewish law that dictates why this is done, as I will likely get it wrong, and I don’t want to offend anyone. (That said, I’m aware that in the picture my bread is buttered.)

Slice of Challah

This bread was an absolute pleasure to make. I had just opened a new jar of yeast and had half a bag of bread flour just calling out to me. For the recipe, I turned to Sherry Yard, whose baking recipes rarely fail me; this one was no exception. In fact, the instructions in this recipe could not have been better. Not only are they clear, but I found the timing for the various stages to be spot-on. Perhaps the conditions in my kitchen were perfect that day, but it was rather unusual for me to not have to make any adjustments to a bread recipe.

This recipe is easy to follow, and I would say, great if you’re a novice bread-maker. I don’t often make braided loaves (um…the last time was about ten years ago when I made butter stollen for Christmas – my first yeast bread ever!), and I admit, the end loaf was gigantic. Next time, I think I’ll opt for two smaller loaves; I’ve included instructions for each below.

Slice of Challah

Challah
adapted from Sherry Yard

for the sponge
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup bread flour

for the dough
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil

for the egg wash
1 large egg beaten with 1 1/2 teaspoons water

instructions for the sponge
Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer; whisk until yeast is dissolved. With paddle, stir in honey and flour to form a batter. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in warm environment (I set my oven to warm and put the bowl on the vent burner) for 20-30 minutes, until just a few bubbles have appeared on the surface of the sponge.

instructions for the dough
Add flour and salt to the sponge, then the eggs and yolks, and oil. Mix on low for 2 minutes with paddle, then switch to dough hook and knead for 8-10 minutes on medium speed, until a smooth ball has formed. Hold on to the mixer during this time! It will jump around, and could vibrate its way over the floor in the moment you turn your back.

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to this bowl. Turn the dough so it’s coated all around with oil, then cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for an hour; it will almost double in size.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 1 minute, then return to the oiled bowl. Cover and let rise another hour, until doubled.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 3 equal portions (6 if making two smaller loaves). Shape the dough into balls and cover with plastic wrap; let rest for 10 minutes.

Form each ball into a 12 inch rope, thicker in the middle and tapered at the ends. Roll up and down with lightly oiled hands, stretching the dough at the end. Transfer the ropes to the baking sheet and pinch together at one end, then braid and pinch together at the other end. (Repeat if making two loaves.)

instructions for the egg wash
Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush the surface of the dough with the egg wash. Reserve remaining egg wash.

instructions for baking
Cover the dough with plastic and proof 60 to 90 minutes, until the dough is 1 1/2 times its original size.

Preheat the oven to 350*F and adjust the oven rack to the middle.

Brush the loaf again with egg wash. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 180*F. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

The cooled loaf can be wrapped in plastic and frozen up to 2 weeks. (Wrap in foil and defrost overnight in the fridge. Refresh in a 350* oven for 10 minutes.)

Tightly wrapped loaves will stay fresh at room temperature up to 2 days.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Leah December 16, 2010 at 11:47 am

Have you ever done challah french toast? Mmm, it’s so good. Your large loaf would be ideal I think :)

Sara December 17, 2010 at 6:58 am

That’s one of the reasons I made it :) And yes – absolutely delicious.

LeeYong December 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Absolutely nothing beats a house/apt filled with the lovely smell of baked bread! I love baking bread – I must admit I don’t like doing it in the winter!
Your challah looks wonderful and thank you for sharing the recipe!

Happy baking
LeeYong

Patricia Scarpin December 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I love how beautifully golden it looks – delish!

Sara December 18, 2010 at 9:26 am

LeeYong – Thank you.

Patricia – I can’t take credit for the color – that’s courtesy of the egg wash.

Elizabeth December 19, 2010 at 7:05 pm

I used your recipe to make challah and it turned out so well. I have been on the hunt for a good challah recipe for awhile and am so glad to finally find one. Thanks!

Sara December 20, 2010 at 9:10 am

Elizabeth, I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it! I just made French toast (again) with some of the leftovers last night, since it’s very dried out now. And the rest? I’m making parmesan croutons – they are just the best for soup or salad.

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