Challah – How To Make It

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I have long wanted to make Challah. It is a popular Jewish ceremonial bread. Enjoyed on the Sabbath or at other celebrations this bread is enriched with eggs and is usually braided. Sometimes the bread is made as rolls.

Over the years I have checked so many recipes. I have watched lots of videos too. All seemed to be basically the same, but with some subtle differences. For instance, some use many more eggs in the dough than others.

For my Challah I didn’t want to end up with a strong taste of egg. So I opted for just enough egg to make a lovely soft bread, but without an aftertaste.

Challah is usually plaited/braided. The number of strands in the plait, or braid, is a matter of personal preference. But most often it is 3, 4 or 6 strands of dough plaited together to form the loaf.

The shape of the Challah is variable too, with the most popular version seeming to be a long straight plait. But I have seen some circular and crescent shapes too. When making Challah as rolls the shapes too are infinite.

For my Challah I decided on a simple 4 strand plait/braid.

Simple to make

The recipe is actually quite simple and can be done by hand. However the use of a stand mixer does make the process simpler, or less effort.

However, although it is simple to make the bread does take a while as there are two proofing stages. The first proof takes a couple of hours or so. Then, after shaping the loaf another extended proof is required for the dough to become puffy before baking

The Challah is usually baked to have a lovely dark golden brown colour. An egg wash is used to provide the colour. Optionally the bread can be sprinkled with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or both.

So, the process is to make the dough. Then proof the dough for the first time. When it is puffy, and has almost doubled in size, it can be divided into the number of pieces required for plaiting. Then dough is plaited and left to proof again until it is nicely expanded and puffy. After that it is egg washed, twice. Sesame seeds or poppy seeds are sprinkled if required. Then it is time to bake the Challah. That, for this recipe, takes about 25 minutes.

The length of the strands for plaiting are a matter of preference. The longer the strands the longer and thinner the loaf will be.

As with all breads it is best to let it cool completely.

My Bake

I was very impressed with the ease of making the Challah. I baked it for exactly 25 minutes. Then I tested the internal temperature. That had reached 97C, which is 207F. That was higher than the 90C/190F needed to ensure the bread was baked.

I took the Challah out of the oven and allowed it to cool before slicing. Then I did slice it and had a taste. The bread was so lovely and soft. Springy to the touch. The flavour had a subtle sweetness to complement the soft texture. I found it simply wonderful. The bread stayed fresh too, stored in an airtight container. I also made some French Toast with it too.

This is a bread I shall make many times, now that I have eventually tried it.

Challah – Video

Another lovely bread recipe is English Muffin Toasting Bread.

Challah – How To Make It

Recipe by geoffcooCourse: BreadDifficulty: Medium
Servings

8

servings
Prep/Waiting time

4

hours 
Cooking time

25

minutes

Ingredients

  • 550g(3 2/3 cups, based on scooping packed flour into a 250ml cup) bread flour

  • 30g(3 1/2 tbsp) bread flour(may be not needed)

  • 170ml(3/4 cup minus 2 tsp) lukewarm water

  • 90ml(6 tbsp) vegetable oil

  • 60g(3 tbsp) honey

  • 2 medium eggs(large in USA)

  • 1 medium egg yolk(large in USA)

  • 12g(4 tsp) instant yeast

  • 9g(1 1/2 tsp) salt

  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

  • ! beaten egg, for egg wash

Directions

  • Place the water, oil, honey eggs and egg yolk into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine.
  • Add the flour, yeast and salt and mix on a low speed until everything is combined into a shaggy dough.
  • Knead, with the dough hook, on a medium low speed until the dough it smooth and elastic, and a windowpane test stretches the dough thinly without tearing. Mine took about 7 minutes.
  • Scrape the dough from the bowl and place it on a work surface, then form it into a tight ball.
  • Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Leave the bowl in a warm place until the dough is puffy, maybe for about 2 hours. It may not double in size but should feel puffy.
  • Gently knock the air out of the dough and divide it into 4 equal pieces.
  • Form each piece into a log.
  • Roll each log into a strand about 15 inches/38 cm long.
  • Place the strands in a fanned shape, so the top of each strand is touching.
  • Squeeze the tops of the strands together.
  • Think of the strands as 1, 2, 3 and 4, numbered from left to right. Remember that as you move strands the strand that is then in the left position is always number 1.
  • Lift strand 1 over strand 2 and under strand three, then over strand 4.
  • Then, again lift 1 over 2 and under 3 and over 4.
  • Repeat that action until the dough is fully plaited, and tuck the ends under to form a neat dough, at the top and bottom.
  • Transfer the shaped dough to a parchment lined baking tray, large enough to allow of expansion during proofing and baking.
  • Cover the dough with lightly greased plastic wrap and leave it until it is nice and puffy, probably about 90 minutes.
  • Towards the end of proofing preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/375F.
  • Brush the top of the dough with beaten egg, then leave it for 5 minutes and brush it again.
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top of the dough.
  • Bake the dough in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until it has risen, coloured well and the internal temperature is at least 90C/190F.
  • Remove the baked Challah from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack.

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