Challah Bread

challah-17 squareThe summer after my husband and I were married, we moved to Seattle to work with his family. He painted houses with his brothers and I worked at his dad’s deli in downtown Seattle, which is where I discovered various kosher culinary delights, the most amazing of which was challah. If you’re unfamiliar with challah bread, it’s a slightly-sweet braided Jewish egg bread, perfect for toasting, snacking, sandwiches, butter and honey, butter and jam, butter and butter. You know. The basics.

Sadly, The Bagel Deli is no longer and I’ve been meaning to track down the challah recipe for a long time, both for my own recipe collection and for posterity. I finally did get it, but not in time for this post (or my other challah-related purposes). That’s okay–I did a lot of bread experimentation and came up with a recipe (influenced by this recipe, but, in the end, changed quite significantly) that is already a big deal at our house. And with friends. And with small children from church.

To start out with, you’re going to need yeast. I like bread machine yeast, but any active dry yeast will work. You’ll need 1 ounce, which is 4 .25-ounce packets (or just shy of 3 tablespoons)–I measured mine out on my handy-dandy kitchen scale.

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You’ll also need a cup of honey and 3 cups of warm water (about 105-110 degrees F–my rule of thumb is water that’s warm enough to take a hot shower in but not so hot that you wouldn’t want to wash your face in it).

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In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, combine the water, honey, and yeast.

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Allow to stand for 10 minutes or until the yeast is blooming.

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Add the 2 tablespoons of kosher salt,

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3/4 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup melted margarine,

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and 4 eggs and mix to combine. With the mixer running, add BREAD flour (it has higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which is vital in bread like this),

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1 cup at a time, until the dough is very soft (too soft to knead with your hands), is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, and barely sticks to your finger.

challah-9Allow the mixer to knead the bread for 7 minutes, then let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into four equal parts* (or two if you want to make two giant loaves of challah). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

Take one of the portions of dough

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and divide it into thirds. Roll/stretch it into a rope about 15-18 inches long and repeat with the remaining 2 pieces. Lay the three ropes next to each other

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and braid  the dough, tucking the ends under the loaf.

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Place the braid on the prepared pan and repeat with the remaining dough portions (you’ll have 2 braids per pan).

Cover the pans and allow to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours or until doubled.

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While the dough is rising, whisk together the egg and vanilla. Preheat oven to 350. Before placing in the oven, brush the dough evenly with the egg wash. If desired, sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and the loaf sounds slightly hollow when you tap on it.

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Remove from oven. Great for sandwiches, toast, snacking (with homemade freezer jam!), and gift-giving.

Perfect challah bread recipe from Our Best Bites

*This bread is a fantastic slightly-sweet multi-use bread–in addition to making challah (4 smaller loaves or 2 massive loaves), it makes amazing rolls (in a 9×13″ pan or in muffin tins), sweet roll dough, hot cross buns, smaller individual loaves, and white sandwich bread (in a loaf pan). Just bake at 350 and kind of keep an eye on the brownness for time.

 

27 comments

    1. I’m sure it would still be good, it just might be heavier. The recipe I started with used all margarine, which makes it lighter and fluffier, but isn’t as flavorful. I replaced almost all of it with butter with just a little margarine for texture and I felt like I got the best of both worlds. 🙂

  1. I will be making this very soon! I’m glad to know that it works well using margarine, I don’t eat dairy and I want to be able to eat it!

    I think I’ll at least halve or maybe even quarter the recipe though – that looks like it would be too much dough for a standard KitchenAid mixer.

  2. So exicted to try this one! I have been anxious for the recipe since you posted the pic on Instagram.

  3. This is gorgeous … I’m sure I’d have to make it a dozen times to get it to turn out this beautifully!

  4. So excited to try the recipe! I have a European recipe from my time in Germany and Switzerland, but it is difficult to translate into American equivalents without a kitchen scale. Although, they braid theirs with four strands per loaf and it creates the most beautiful knotted pattern!

  5. Did you use the dough hook on your mixer? Or the paddle attachment? Thanks! Love this site — you ladies give me courage to try making so many new things!

  6. Kate, this bread looks yummy. I just read your freezer jam recipe and was wondering if you ever tried the less sugar pectin, or just using honey? I’ve never made freezer jam, but strawberries are going to be in season soon and I want to try it out.

  7. This brings back good memories from the Artisan Breads class I took in culinary school 🙂 The bad ones include never, ever being able to make a baguette. But I could make a gorgeous challah 🙂

  8. I never consider trying yeast breads, just admire the photos but this is different, I’m going to try it. Is the Smart Balance margarine in stick form or the softer tub style? And would you and Sarah mind discussing your oven types? Do either of you have a convection oven? Pros and cons? I’m in the market for a new oven and think hearing from people that actually use one is much better than all the sale pitches. Are there gas convection ovens?
    Thanks.

    1. I have a gas convection oven. I’m not very impressed with it for baked goods. The baked goods on the bottom shelf don’t brown real well and get a little funny looking. I still end up switching my pans top to bottom, so I don’t bother with the convection anymore. Hope that helps.

  9. Kate, I have a Bosch that looks like it’s the same size as yours. Did you fit the entire recipe in your Bosch? I’m just wondering if I need to halve it. Thanks so much :).

  10. So funny that you would post this just a few days before Passover…! I’m bookmarking so I can try this after the holiday is over.

  11. oh, my yum!! I grew up eating this, but it’s so hard to find challah where I live. Did you know that challah bread makes the BEST french toast. I think it’s a proven fact. I can’t wait to play with this recipe…challah rolls!! yum!

  12. Oh my, this bread is so delicious! I went to the store yesterday to get some bread flour so that I could make it today, and then I went to bed last night thinking about it. Haha. I have a standard KitchenAid mixer, and after adding the flour, I had to knead it by hand (I halved the recipe) because the dough get was climbing up my dough hook. It turned out beautifully! I was a little nervous about braiding it and having it look like a big gnarly lump of bread, but the dough was very easy to work with. I’ve already eaten three slices…someone take this away from me!!! The honey flavor is so good, that I have just been slathering the slices with butter. I also used all butter -no margarine, in the dough and it is still nice and fluffy.

  13. This is our main bread for making French Toast, but we actually call it Jew Toast when we use challah bread.

  14. I’d LOVE to try this, but can’t seem to find bread flour anywhere in New Zealand. We have High Grade, Regular, Whole Wheat, and Self Rising, but no bread flour (or cake flour, for that matter). What to do?

  15. Do you think i can use real butter instead of margarine and instant yeast instead of bread machine yeast?

  16. That bread looks amazing! It sounds so simple to make, too! I love trying to make new things, and this seems like it would be a hit for everyone in the family! Thanks for sharing this.

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