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Baking: Better Challah

Challah

In December of 2013, I made my first challah. Many years and experimental recipes later, I’ve developed one that I really like and that increases the deliciousness and joy of our Shabbat table every week.

What You’ll Need (makes 1 large challah or 2 medium challot)

  • 3/4 cup warm water (I microwave for about 20-30 seconds)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup honey (for sweeter challah, add more)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons safflower, sunflower, grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2-3 cups bread flour
  • 2 eggs (one for dough, one for egg wash)
  • OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, garlic powder, kosher salt, raisins

Let’s Get Started!

If you have a stand mixer and dough hook, I highly recommend using it to knead the dough.

  1. Combine warm water, yeast, salt, and one egg in a large bowl and let sit until yeast begins to bubble (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add oil and 2 1/2 cups of bread flour and knead until the mixture becomes doughy (about 10-15 minutes).
  3. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough loses its stickiness. You should be able to poke the dough with your finger without the dough sticking to you and without it looking flaky. If it is too sticky, add 1/4 cup of dough at a time until it becomes firmer. If it is too flaky, add a bit more oil.
  4. Move the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Use just enough oil to coat the outside of the dough to keep it from sticking to the bowl; too much oil will make the dough too wet. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm enclosed area (like your microwave or stove, but do not turn your stove on while the bowl is in there). Let dough rise until it has doubled in size (about 1 hour)
  5. Punch down the dough and fold in any toppings you want to use. If adding raisins, add them here. I also like to mix in my toppings for poppy, sesame, or everything challah at this stage, because it ensures that they won’t fall off when you eat it, but you can add those at the end if you prefer. Stretch the dough into a thick square and sprinkle raisins or other toppings on top. Fold the dough in half and knead by hand for two minutes or until the toppings are well-mixed.
  6. Cut dough into equal pieces. If making one three-strand challah, cut into three pieces; if making two loaves, cut into six pieces.
  7. Roll each piece into a 12″ length rope and braid the strands together. This website offers different braiding techniques, if you want to try four-strand or five-strand challah. Pinch the ends together.
  8. Beat remaining egg with 1/2 teaspoon of water. For sweeter challah, add a bit of sugar to the egg wash.
  9. Place dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash.
  10. Let stand for another 20-30 minutes or until it doubles in size again. Let it rise longer for an airier challah.
  11. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and bake for 20-25 minutes. For a darker golden shine, reapply egg wash after ten minutes.
  12. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.
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