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.

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Challah Bread

  • Author: Our Best Bites
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 4 loaves
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Yeast Bread

Description

Challah bread is a slightly sweet braided Jewish egg bread, perfect for toasting, snacking, sandwiches, butter and honey, butter and jam, or just butter and more butter!


Ingredients

BREAD
3 cups warm water (about 105110 degrees F)
1 cup honey
1 ounce bread machine yeast (4  0.25-ounce packets, or just shy of 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup high-quality kosher margarine (like Smart Balance), melted
4 eggs
1113 cups bread flour

EGG WASH
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

OPTIONAL
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds for sprinkling on top


Instructions

In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, combine the water, honey, and yeast. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Add the salt, butter, margarine, and eggs and mix to combine. With the mixer running, add the flour, 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. Allow 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 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 and braid  the dough, tucking the ends under the loaf. 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.

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. Remove from oven. Great for sandwiches, toast, snacking, and gift-giving.


Notes

  • This is a HUGE dough recipe and will be too large for a standard KitchenAid or similar machine. A Bosch or KitchenAid professional 600 is large enough, but even then, it’s pushing it. However, it’s very easy to scale this recipe down by 1/2 or even 1/4.
  • 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). You could braid it with cinnamon sugar and raisins, or add in herbs like rosemary. Just bake at 350 and kind of keep an eye on the brownness for time.

Keywords: yeast breads, challah, Easter

 

27 comments

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  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. 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.

    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. 🙂

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