Challah

This bread, and how easy it is to make, is too good to be true.

And it earned me major points with my challah-loving husband.

Bread karma has been on my side recently because for a first-ever attempt at making dinner rolls, I could not have been more pleased with the results and the recipe will likely be my go-to dinner roll recipe for years to come.

The lucky streak continued because this challah is the first challah I’ve ever made and was positively blown away with the results and so was my Jewish husband. Not only did he tell me that it’s the best challah he’s ever had, and this is coming from a man who’s family owned a Jewish deli in Chicago, but of all the bread recipes I’ve made recently, he told me the challah is his favorite bread to date, even trumping the dinner rolls. Not bad for a shiksa.

I made the challah using the challah recipe found in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking cookbook. The concept of the book is quite remarkable in that the authors set out to create bread recipes and a bread-making method that enables one to enjoy freshly bread daily, with just five minutes of active preparation. They wanted to make bread-making accessible and do-able, without any of the hassle, trouble, or labor-intensive challenges that are the common impediments to bread-baking at home.

The overall concept is to make a large batch of dough that can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week and when you’re ready for fresh bread, simply take a hunk of dough, shape it into a loaf or braid it, allow it to rise for just over an hour at room temperature, then bake it.

The recipes are no-fuss and no-knead. Not having to knead dough is a huge bonus, because even with a stand mixer, kneading takes time. And for the novice bread-maker, or for those who are hand-kneading, knowing if the dough has been properly kneaded or if you’ve needed long enough, can be challenging to determine and having recipes that are no-knead is very welcome.

Although the bread-making method is intriguing and is initially why I bought the book, no amount of shortcuts are worth it if the bread doesn’t taste great and I was really eager to put their recipes to the test. I had read the reviews on Amazon and had fairly high hopes for because people really rave about the book, but I didn’t know if they were raving about the method and concept in general, which deserves raving; or if the actual recipes were really top-shelf and rave-worthy.

I cannot speak for other recipes yet because so far all I’ve made from the book has been the challah, but the book has earned it’s keep and is a five-star smashing success based on the challah recipe alone. Not only is the challah the best we’ve ever had, but I have learned so much about the authors’ methodology to bread-making; how yeast works on the moist doughs, why the dough doesn’t require kneading, and the various concepts and techniques advocated in the book.

It’s one of those life-changing books and although that sounds a bit dramatic, now that I can make fabulous tasting bread at home daily, with almost no effort, is indeed pretty life-changing.

Almost all recipes in the book can very easily be doubled or halved, and I  chose to halve the challah recipe. This produces dough for two loaves of challah, one that can be baked immediately and one that can be baked off within the next week, a perfect quantity for our family.

To make the challah, combine water, yeast, honey, oil, salt and flour in a mixer or large bowl. The authors give a choice of using butter or oil and I chose oil because oil-based challah is softer than butter-based. I used a combination of bread and all-purpose flour. The authors indicate in the opening section of the book that all-purpose flour is just fine for almost all of their recipes, but that bread flour may be substituted if a chewier texture is preferred. I love chewy bread and opted to use some bread flour in conjunction with all-purpose.

After all the ingredients are added to the bowl, mix until the dough just combines, shutting off the mixer or stopping hand-mixing before moving into actively kneading the dough. At this point the dough is pretty wet and sloppy, but it’s by design. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise until it’s doubled in size, about two hours.

At this point, you can either go onto the next step, which is rolling out or braiding the dough in preparation to be baked; or take the whole wad of dough and refrigerate it and bake it off within five days for egg-enriched doughs, and seven to ten days later for other dough. I used half of the dough and baked some challah immediately, and refrigerated the other half for challah I baked five days later.

For the bread I was baking immediately, I separated the dough into three pieces, rolled each piece into a long cylinder about a foot in length, and then braided it with a three-strand braid, just like braiding hair. There are some incredibly complex ways to bread challah, with six-stranded braids, flipping it over, twisting and turning it like oragami, but I kept things very basic for my first attempt. I braided it on a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, which is nice because very little flour is needed for the work surface, and the less flour you add to bread dough, the softer and lighter the resulting bread is.

After it’s braided, the dough rises for forty minutes if using freshly made dough; or if using previously refrigerated dough, this second rise is for one hour and twenty minutes.

Immediately before baking, brush the dough lightly with eggwash. I used about half of one beaten egg for the eggwash and didn’t over-do it because I didn’t want the bread to either taste too egg-ey or turn too browned in the oven, both of which can happen with eggwash. The bread bakes up quickly, in about twenty minutes, so watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.

I cannot speak highly enough about this bread. It’s light, soft, tender, and almost croissant-like in how delicate and fluffy it is. It has a butter-like quality, even though I didn’t use butter in the dough and chose to use oil instead. It doesn’t even need to be buttered to enjoy it and it has a light sweetness from the honey. It stayed fresh for days wrapped in plasticwarp and placed in a gallon-sized ziplock.

The loaf I baked five days later with refrigerated dough tasted exactly the same as the first; absolutely perfect. Although the authors suggest that refrigerated dough can take on an almost sourdough-like quality as the yeast ferments over time, I didn’t sense any changes to the taste of the bread from the dough that I baked immediately versus that which I waited to bake. This could be because it’s an egg-enriched dough and a sweeter dough compared to other doughs.

It really was too good to be true when I braided five day old refrigerated bread dough that I didn’t ever have to knead, let it rise for an hour and half, and baked it.

Pulling apart a braid never tasted so good.

Challah Bread

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 22 minutes

Total Time: 32 minutes

Yield: 2 loaves, about 10-inches each

This challah recipe comes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking and is incredibly easy. I halved the full recipe and the recipe below makes two loaves of challah, one which can be baked after about 3 hours (first rise is two hours, second rise is 40 minutes). The other half of dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and baked off when you're ready. This is truly make-ahead dough and there's no kneading. It's extremely easy, fuss-free bread making, and great for anyone who's new to bread-making or challah-making. The challah turns out light, fluffy, almost croissant-like, with just a hint of sweetness and my Jewish husband approves. This was my first ever loaf of challah and I will use this recipe for a lifetime. The other half of dough, if you don't want to make a second loaf of challah with it, can be formed into dinner rolls or filled to make cinnamon buns.

Ingredients:

scant 1 cup water, warmed to about 125F for Platinum yeast, about 105 to 115F for most other yeast (full batch calls for 1 3/4 cups water)

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one 1/4-ounce packet, I use Red Star Platinum)

2 large eggs

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil, or 1/4 cup butter (oil creates a softer loaf, butter creates a crustier crust; butter-based dough is firmer and possibly easier to work with than oil-based, but I have no trouble with oil-based and prefer softer challah and use canola oil)

1/4 cup honey

3/4 tablespoon salt, or to taste (the full recipe is 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, halved is 3/4 tablespoon, not teaspoon, which I think is way too much; I used no salt with great results)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 1/2 cups bread flour, and 1 cup all-purpose; the authors indicate that bread flour may be substituted if a chewier bread is preferred)

1 large egg, for eggwash

sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling, optional

Directions:

Making the Dough - Add the water to a glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl and warm the water to temperature, about 30 seconds on high power. Using a thermometer, check the temperature. If you don't have a thermometer, when inserting your finger, it should feel warm but not hot. Add the water to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add 2 eggs, honey, oil (or butter), salt to taste, and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes, until well combined. Remove the paddle, put on the dough hook, and add 3 cups flour. With the mixer on low speed, allow hook to fold in the flour; it will take a minute or two. Sprinkle in the remaining 1/2 cup flour and allow it to become just incorporated; don't move into actively kneading the dough; just incorporate the flour and turn mixer off.

Turn dough out into a lightly greased large mixing bowl (do not knead it), cover bowl with plasticwrap, and allow it to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Punch dough down and either move on to the next step (baking it) or dough can be stored in refrigerator for up to 5 days before baking it later. If baking later, place all the dough into a large bowl or container with a lid, allowing the lid to remain slightly ajar so there is a tiny bit of airflow, and refrigerate dough until you are ready to move onto the next step, Baking Day.

Baking Day - You can move onto this step immediately after the 2-hour rise, or after the dough has been refrigerated for day(s).

Divide dough in half; set aside other for later or make two loaves now. If dough is sticky, use floured hands to work with it. Place dough on a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat , adding a bit flour if necessary, or place it onto a floured work surface. Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion out into a 12-inch long cylinder. The dough is very springy and will want to recoil and shrink back but be patient and keep stretching it or rolling it, either with your hands, a rolling pin, or just stretching it out as best you can; previously refrigerated dough behaves better and has less of a mind of its own.

After you have 3 long cylinders about 1-inch each in diameter, place them on the baking mat and baking tray where you plan to bake them. Pinch one end of all three together and start braiding down, just like you're braiding hair. After you've reached the end, gently pinch off and tuck the ends underneath the loaf, just making it neat. Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place for 40 minutes if using fresh dough, or for 1 hour 20 minutes if using previously refrigerated dough (even though my dough was fresh, I allowed it to rise for closer to 1 hour rather than just 40 minutes on the baking tray, placed on top of the preheating oven). Preheat oven to 350F midway through this rise.

Beat 1 egg and immediately prior to baking, brush eggwash all over loaf (I use about half of the egg as I don't want bread to get too 'eggy', just shiny). Sprinkle with optional sesame or poppy seeds (I use neither). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until challah is a pale golden and set. Tthe internal temperature should be ~190F however I judge by color. Allow bread to cool before slicing or pulling apart and serving. I store bread wrapped in plasticwrap, then placed in a ziptop food storage bag or in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

With the other remaining half of unbaked dough, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days and then should be used; or it can be frozen and then thawed, and used. This dough may be used for more challah; raisins may be added, or used in dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls; or get creative with it.

Notes

This recipe is a half-batch of the Challah recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking and makes two one-pound loaves. Make one now, make the other within 5 days for egg-enriched dough, storing the extra dough in the refrigerator until baking day. The full batch makes 4 loaves.

The instructions outlined here are how I interpreted and adapted the recipe, making it as streamlined as possible and makes the dough mixing extremely easy and fast.

The ingredients listed in the recipe are half of what is outlined in the recipe in the book. It's noted in almost all recipes within the book, "This recipe can easily be halved or doubled", and I chose to halve it.

I question their quantity of salt; I would think twice before adding that much salt to a sweet-ish bread; I used none. I used oil because I wanted a softer and less crusty bread; butter will create a firmer crust. I did, however, want chewier bread and used a combination of all-purpose and bread flour; the book calls for all-purpose in this recipe. However, in the opening chapter they give a nod to using bread flour in place of all-purpose if you prefer chewier bread.

http://www.averiecooks.com/2012/11/challah.html

Related Recipes:

Honey Dinner Rolls – Soft, light, fluffy, tender, moist and the dough has just enough chew to really sink my teeth into. They’re the absolute best dinner rolls I’ve ever had and were an ultimate hit with the family. I will make this recipe over and over, forever and I highly recommend these for Thanksgiving or any holiday gatherings

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread with Cinnamon Sugar Butter – If you’ve never made bread before, this is a goofproof, foolproof, no-knead recipe that’s perfect for the first-time bread maker. You’ll never have a need for storebought English muffins again, especially because this bread is spiked with cinnamon-sugar and raisins

Cinnamon Swirl Bread – As close to a cinnamon roll as a bread can get and still be called bread rather than dessert. Rich, sweet, and light. This bread is for the cinnamon lover’s and is abundantly flavored with cinnamon, which is used twice in the bread recipe, and again in the cinnamon-sugar butter I serve it with

Outback Steakhouse Wheat Bread {Copycat Recipe} – This recipe is based on my love of Outback’s bread and makes two small loaves of hearty, dense, wheat bread. The bread is ever-so-slightly sweetened and is infused with subtle hints of molasses, and a dead-ringer in the flavor department. Serve with honey butter for even more authenticity

Cinnamon Bun Pie – Best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever made (to date) and they’re ready from start to finish in less than 30 minutes because they use a shortcut. I’m working on yeast-based cinnamon rolls next

Baked Vanilla Donuts with Vanilla Glaze - No-yeast baked donuts that are as easy as making muffins and if you don’t have a donut pan, the batter can be baked as muffins

Have you tried any Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day recipes?

There are three books:

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking (2007), which is the one I bought

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients (2009)

Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day (2011)

If you’ve tried any recipes that you love, I’d love to hear about them and your favorites.

Have you ever made challah?

If you’ve never made bread, or challah, there’s no reason to be intimidated because neither the bread-making nor the braiding is challenging and the bread is scrumptious.

Everyone says that challah makes the best French toast but I normally think of the bread used for French toast as the bread that’s a little past its prime and that you need to use up. This challah was so light, flaky, moist, tender and croissant-like that we had to restrain from inhaling the loaf in sitting. No need for butter, jam, honey, or anything and it was that good on it’s own. Maybe one day we’ll have extra for French toast.

   

102 Responses to “Challah”

  1. #
    51
    Suzi — January 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks to you, challah has become a staple at this bread-making household. We love it braided, the way it softly and “yummily” pulls apart, but we save that for company. The rest of the time, I cheat and throw it all in the bread maker and let it bake there. I add the water first. (That “scant cup of water,” or half of 1 3/4 c., equals 7/8 c. or 1 c. minus 2T.) I whisk the 2 eggs in a mug before adding them. The dry ingredients come next, PLUS we LOVE it with 1 c. of craisins! My machine has a beep that goes off when you are supposed to add extras like raisins or craisins, but I told you I cheat! I just add them at the beginning. It bakes into a beautiful loaf “all by itself.” Usually if I’m making raisin/craisin bread, I add cinnamon, but that’s more for breakfast. This is our current choice for sandwiches. Just the good chewy challah and little bits of sweetness from the craisins. Yum! Thanks, again!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — January 9th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks for this glowing comment, Suzi, and for the detailed report of what you do and what works. I love that you’re able to make this all in a bread machine! And that it works so well. I agree that braiding is fancier sand I have yet to make this bread JUST as a regular loaf and always braid it but now I want to just try it as a loaf. I’ve wanted to try the dough as cinn roll dough, because of “the way it softly and “yummily” pulls apart”! Yes indeed. Thank you so much for taking time to come back and leave this comment and detailed info as well as making the bread regularly!

      Reply

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    Laura — July 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    This has quickly become my favorite bread recipe. It always comes out great and tastes delicious, and the dough is so easy to work with. I’ve made small and large braided loaves, some plain and some topped with poppy seeds or pearl sugar, and for 4th of July this week I made it into poppy seed hamburger rolls. The first time I made it I couldn’t decide between butter and olive oil, so I used 2 tablespoons of each and have done the same every time so far because it worked out so well. Thanks fo sharing another great recipe!

    Reply

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    Monica M — August 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Averie, I just made this and already ate a massive piece! :) It’s delicious and so soft! However, mine looked more like a loaf than a braid, next time I will try to add a little bit more flour so that it holds the shape better and if it doesnt, well never mind, it still tastes fantastic! :)

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — August 1st, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      Ok I have had that happen where it turns into a loaf rather than a braid while baking. It happened when I used all all-purpose flour rather than splitting it half bread/half AP flours. So use some bread flour if you didn’t. And yes, it also happened when my dough was super soft. I tend to underflour things if possible (especially for personal cooking Im not doing for the blog that I dont have to take pics of) b/c I would prefer less shape-holding but also less density/heaviness so I underflour. If you add a touch more flour, you’ll have more structure and it’ll hold a braid shape better :)

      Glad you love this. One of my fave breads on my site! The no-knead white dinner rolls are sort of ‘related’ to this recipe and I bet you’ll enjoy them too! http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/06/no-knead-make-ahead-dinner-rolls-with-honey-butter.html

      Reply

      • Monica M replied: — August 1st, 2013 at 3:23 pm

        Yeah I’ve used bread flour, I will try to add a bit more flour next time :) And I’ve already made your no-knead dinner rolls, they are amazing!! Although I prefer your honey dinner rolls were kneading is involved, find they come out a lot fluffier and they are definetely the best dinner rolls I’ve ever had! :)

        • Averie Sunshine replied: — August 1st, 2013 at 3:27 pm

          Oh I love field reports and comments like this! I love the honey dinner rolls a little more, too:) Something about them, with the honey butter, it’s just magical. And yes, they’re fluffier, too, I agree.

          Glad you’re using some bread flour. Just use a bit more, and I think you’ll be set!

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    54
    Sophie — August 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I make challah every Friday for Shabbat, I always make sure to make 4 loaves so that Sunday morning I can make challah french toast! Trust me challah makes for the best french toast even better than using french bread.

    Reply

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    Abby — August 10, 2013 at 9:40 am

    What would happen if i would sub atleast half the flour for whole wheat?

    Reply

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    Andrea — November 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Hi!

    This looks great. But do you think I could substitute the All Purpose Flour for either Wheat or Almond or Oat flour?

    Reply

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    Lulubelle — January 24, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Just made this on a hot summer’s afternoon in New Zealand. Totally hooked! This will be a regular weekend feature from now on. Thank you!!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — January 24th, 2014 at 11:59 pm

      I’m jealous you’re having summer there :) It never gets that cold in San Diego, but the days are short and the nights are chilly! Glad you love the bread & that it’s going on weekly rotation!

      Reply

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    Sheree Akins — March 11, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Can I use half and half instead of water?

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — March 11th, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Probably, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t speak for sure.

      Reply

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    Sheree Akins — March 11, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Thank you for your quick response. I’m going to make this recipe today. :-)

    Reply

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