How To: Make Challah

Challah Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast (8g)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup honey or sugar
  • 3-4 cups all purpose flour

Main Tools

  • 2 large mixing bowls
  • 1 smaller bowl 
  • Tea towel
  • Thermometer (highly recommended)
  • Your hands 

Directions

(Bolded text will have more detailed explanations in the Pro Tips section at the bottom)

Start by activating your yeast. Measure 1 cup of warm water. Dissolve the tsp of sugar into the water, then add in your yeast and stir until it’s fully dissolved. The mixture should start to get fizzy almost immediately. You will also notice a yeasty smell.

Yeast dissolved in warm water

Yeast dissolved in warm water

Let this stand for 10 minutes in a warm place while you prepare your other ingredients.

Lightly grease one mixing bowl and set it aside. This is where you will place your formed dough to rise.

In your second mixing bowl, combine the oil, eggs, and honey (or sugar) and mix. Measure your flour into a smaller bowl and set aside. 

After the 10 minutes, your yeast mixture should have formed a nice head ( think of what a glass of beer looks like) indicating that it’s good to go.

Yeast mixture after 10 minutes

Yeast mixture after 10 minutes

Add the yeast water into your bowl of wet ingredients and stir to incorporate.

Once that’s all mixed, you can start adding your flour.

Very important- do not add all your flour in one shot! 

The science/art of bread making has a lot of variables: ambient room temperature, humidity in the air, even how forcefully you scooped your flour, all of which will affect the total amount of flour that you’ll need. 

Go slow, add a cup or so at a time, incorporating the flour in as you go. 

You want the dough to come together, in a soft barely sticky mass. Once the dough has formed, it’s time to knead!

This is where you will add the final necessary amounts of flour, just enough so that the dough is no longer sticking to your work surface or hands. You looking for a soft elastic dough that bounces back when you press into its surface. It will also have a smooth surface. This will take a solid few minutes of kneading, so be patient! 

Dough ball before first rise

Dough ball before first rise

When it’s reached it’s proper level of elasticity, roll your dough into a ball, and place it in your greased bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave it a warm place to rise until it’s doubled in size- 1.5-2 hours. 

Dough after the first rise

Dough after the first rise

Once it’s doubled, press the dough down, and fold it over a few times. Then recover and let the dough rise again for another 30-45 min. 

After the second rise it’s time to shape. Divide the dough into as many strands are you’re ambitious enough to attempt and get braiding!

After braiding, place the challah onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper for its final proofing. Once again, cover the bread with your damp tea towel and let it rise for another hour.

6 braid challah before final proof

6 braid challah before final proof

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Once the bread has finished proofing, brush the challah all over with egg wash and sprinkle with your choice of poppy seeds or sesame seeds. 

6 braid challah after final proof with egg wash

6 braid challah after final proof with egg wash

Bake for 20-25 min and check it. Your looking for an internal temperature of 190 to 200°F.

The crust will be nicely browned and it will smell fantastic. 

Pro Tips

  • The optimal water temperature to activate your yeast is 105 to 110°F.  Hotter water will actually kill your yeast. Dead yeast means your bread won’t rise. 
  • To knead your dough, press the door away from you using the heel of your palm then curl it back inward ( towards the middle) you using your fingers. 
  • A warm place for your dough to rise: the temperature of the space where you leave your dough to rise is also something to consider. The optimal ambient temperature for bread to rise is 24°C/75°F.
  • To learn how to braid your challah, check out my IGTV video tutorials on Instagram
  • Egg wash is just an egg beaten with a bit of water. 

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