Challah is a traditional Jewish egg-enriched bread often served on Shabbat and holidays.
This challah recipe delivers a perfect loaf for Jewish holidays and Shabbat. The dough for this loaf is wonderfully smooth and supple, making it an ideal candidate for braiding. The simplest way to go is a three-strand braid; but feel free to try the slightly more complex four-strand braid, or even a six- strand braid, which makes a striking presentation.
Dough * 73g lukewarm water * 6 tbsp vegetable oil * 1/4 cup honey * 2 large eggs * 4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour * 1 1/2 teaspoons salt * 1 tbsp instant yeast * 80g starter
Glaze * 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tbsp cold water
- Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
- Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them, by hand, mixer, or bread machine, for a minute. Let rest 20 minutes.
- Continue kneading for 7 minutes until you have a soft, smooth dough.
- Allow the dough to rise in a plastic wrap-covered bowl for about 2 hours, or until it’s puffy; it won’t necessarily double in bulk.
- Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
- Next step: divide the dough into pieces, the number depending on what kind of braid you want to make. You may braid the challah the traditional way, into a three-strand braid; for helpful tips watch our video, How to braid a three-strand loaf. For a fancier presentation, make a six-strand braid; watch our video, How to braid a six-strand loaf, to see how it’s done. To make a four-strand braid see “tips,” below.
- Once you’ve decided which braid you’re doing, divide the dough into the appropriate number of pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 20" long. If the dough starts to shrink back as you roll, cover it and let it rest for about 10 minutes, then resume rolling. The short rest gives the gluten a chance to relax.
- Braid the loaf. Remember, for three- or six-strand braids, watch the videos linked above. For a four-strand braid, see “tips,” below.
- Gently pick up the braided loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s very puffy, 90 minutes to 2 hours at cool room temperature. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- To make the glaze: Whisk together the egg and water. Brush the glaze over the risen loaf.
- Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will insulate the bread’s bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes. If it’s a deep golden brown, tent it loosely with aluminum foil. If it’s not as brown as you like, check it again at 30 minutes.
- Once you’ve tented the challah, bake it for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf looks and feels set and its interior registers at least 190°F.
- Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.
- Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage. While challah does tend to dry out after a day or so, it’s always good toasted, or made into grilled sandwiches or French toast.
- The dough can be made with either bread flour or all-purpose flour; bread flour will give your challah a bit more height.
- If you’re using instant yeast, there’s no need to let it dissolve in water before adding it to the dough. Just mix it in with the rest of the ingredients.
- If you’re making this challah on a hot, humid day, you’ll find you need to add a bit more flour to the dough to make it manageable.