Who could resist a bread like Challah with its beautifully braided 6-strands, glazed with egg wash, and baked to a deep burnished golden brown? It is a glorious sight to see. Cutting into the Challah, the air is perfumed with the rich smell of sweet golden honey, corn oil, and loads of egg yolks producing a crumb that is sightly sweet, moist and oh so tender.
Challah, like its Jewish Rye cousin, is a gift from the Eastern European bakers who integrated the regional baking traditions of the old world creating the Challah we know today. A bread that once was made only for Shabbat or special occasions now can be found baked daily in most bakeries.
Challah is the translation of the Hebrew word for “cake.” The offering or portion of challah that was given to the priests (kohanim) was called the mitzvah of “hafrashat challah.” The bread is originally thought to be a bread like matzoh or a pita.
This recipe for Challah is highly enriched with honey, corn oil, and egg yolks making for a rich but sticky dough when kneading. As with my other recipes for breads that are sticky “do not add any extra flour when kneading” the dough will become firmer as you knead. I promise you.
Braiding the Challah can be challenging for the novice. So I have added the video timestamp to each move and position of the strands as you are braiding the loaf. Starting and stopping the video as you are braiding will help keep you following the pattern of braiding. Practicing beforehand with 6 strands of rope taped together will help to build your confidence. Know that no matter what the baked Challah looks like it will taste amazing!
As with all baking recipe I recommend you weigh the ingredients for the Challah Braid. Weighing ensures you have a consistent dough each and every time. As bakers we are always striving to remove any variables from the process of baking.
The full instructional video for Challah Braid is at the bottom of this blog post. Follow this link to “LIKE” and “SUBSCRIBE” to my YouTube Channel “Just One Bite, Please?” http://www.youtube.com/c/justonebiteplease/
- Measuring Cups/Spoons or Bakers Scale
- Large Bowl
- Rubber Spatula
- Plastic Scrape
- Plastic Wrap
- Non-Stick Spray or Oil
- Metal Bench Knife
- Baking Stone “Old Stone Oven”
- ½-Sheet Parchment Paper
- Pastry Brush
- Measured Grams Ingredients
- 3 Tbsp. 57 g. Honey
- ¼ cup 57 g. Corn Oil
- 6-7 each 113 g. Egg Yolks (room temperature)
- 1 cup 226 g. Water (room temperature)
- 2 tsp. 8 g. Instant Yeast
- 3-½ cup 510 g. Bread Flour
- 1-¼ tsp. 13 g. Sea Salt (fine)
Mixing and Kneading the Challah:
- In a large bowl combine the honey, corn oil, and egg yolks. Mix with a rubber spatula until well combined.
- Add the water, instant yeast, and about half of the bread flour. Mix together to make a thick batter. Beat the batter until well combined.
- Add the remaining bread flour and sea salt. Fold the ingredients together until a shaggy dough forms.
- Scrape down the bowl using a plastic bench scrape and to turn the dough onto the work surface.
- Knead the dough to combine the ingredients for 1 to 2 minutes. Using the plastic scrape the dough off your hand and to bring it back together from the work surface. (Note: the dough will be very sticky at this point. Do not add any extra flour)
- Continue to knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes to develop the gluten. The dough will become strong and smooth.
- Form the dough into a ball and place into a bowl that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and ferment the dough for 1 hour at 68º-74ºF (20º-23ºC).
Pre-shaping the Challah:
- 2 Tbsp. Medium Rye Flour
- After 1 hour. Uncover the bowl and turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Deflate the dough lightly with your hands.
- Using a bench scraper divide the dough into 6 pieces each weighing 125 grams.
- Shaping each piece into a tight round ball, place on the work surface and cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap.
- Rest the pieces of dough at room temperature for 5 minutes. (The resting period is import to allow the final shaping of the Challah stands without tearing the surface)
- After the 5 minutes degas and form all the rounds of dough into a tight log. Roll each log into a 10-inch (25 cm) tapered strand.
- Sprinkle and coat all the Challah strands with the Medium Rye flour. (This keeps the braided strands from melding together.)
Braiding and Proofing the Challah:
- 1 Tbsp. Cornmeal
- Parchment Paper (¼ sheet pan size)
- Wood Cutting Board
- Egg Wash: 1 egg yolk and 1 Tbsp water
- Pastry Brush
- Small Bowl
- Separate the strands into 2 groups of 3. Attach the 3 strands together at one end. (video timestamp 4:45)
- Attach the 2 groups of strands together by pinching and folding the ends together. (video timestamp 4:54)
- Cross the top left strand over the top right strand. (video timestamp 5:01)
- Bring the top right strand down to the center. (video timestamp 5:04)
- Cross the second strand on the left to the top right and gather each side to groups of 3 strands. (video timestamp 5:05)
- Bring the top left strand down to the center. (video timestamp 5:08)
- Cross the second strand on the right to the top left and gather each side to groups of 3 strands. (video timestamp 5:09)
- Bring the top right strand down to the center. (video timestamp 5:12)
- Cross the second strand on the left to the top right and gather each side to groups of 3 strands. (video timestamp 5:13)
- Bring the top left strand down to the center. (video timestamp 5:16)
- Cross the second strand on the right to the top left and gather each side to groups of 3 strands. (video timestamp 5:17)
- Keep repeating this pattern until you reach the ends of the strands. (Note: Watch how my hands keep the 2 sides separated and hold the strands in order.)
- Pinch and tuck the ends of the strands under the Challah braid. (video timestamp 5:53)
- Turn the Challah and seal the ends with the palms of your hand. (video timestamp 5:57)
- Place the parchment onto the wooden cutting board and sprinkle the surface with cornmeal.
- Place the Challah Braid onto the cornmeal lined parchment paper.
- Mix the egg wash using the pastry brush.
- Lightly brush the egg wash onto Challah Braid. Covering the entire Challah. (Cover and refrigerate the egg wash until need again)
- Loosely cover the Challah with plastic wrap. (Spraying the plastic wrap with non-stick spray before covering will insure the Challah does not stick)
- Proof the Challah for 1-½ hours at 68º-74ºF (20º-23ºC).or until about doubled in size.
Baking the Challah:
- Baking Stone
Pre-heat the Baking Stone and Oven to 375ºF (190ºC) for 1 hour before baking the Challah
- After fully proofing the Challah for 1-½ hours. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the Challah.
- Lightly brush the entire surface with egg wash again.
- Slide a baking peel under the parchment paper and place the Challah into the pre-heated oven on the baking stone.
- Bake the Challah at 375ºF (190ºC) for 20 minutes, then carefully turn the Challah around and remove the parchment paper.
- Continue to bake the Challah for another 5 to 6 minutes or until deep golden brown.
- Use a baking peel to remove the baked Challah from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
- Cool the Challah completely to room temperature before cutting.
- Once cooled cut the Challah using a serrated bread knife.
Note: Store the Challah in a plastic bag to keep it as fresh as possible. The Challah has a 3 day shelf life stored in a plastic bag.