Challah

Step-by-step instructions for great bread!

While this braided, slightly sweet loaf is most commonly associated with Jewish cuisine, it’s a staple in several European cultures as well. This is a great recipe for beginning bread bakers as it is not a finicky dough that needs a lot of attention. I like to bake my challah in 5 x 9 inch loaf pans so it keeps a uniform shape, which makes my toaster happy. This recipe can easily be doubled; the loaves freeze well. For best results, be sure you use fresh yeast (check the date on the package) whenever making bread. We love challah for toast and sandwiches; it also makes excellent French toast and bread pudding.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) warm water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon (7.5 mL) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) honey or white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 3 1/2 (875 mL) to 4 cups (1L) unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sesame seeds

Method

  • In a large bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one), sprinkle yeast and a pinch of sugar over warm water and let stand till foamy, about 5 minutes.
  • Beat in honey or sugar, oil, 1 egg, and salt.
  • Add the flour a half a cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens.
  • Knead until smooth and elastic (2 – 4 minutes) and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed – if you add a bit too much flour and the dough gets too dry, add a teaspoon of water at a time and keep kneading.
  • Take a clean, large bowl and add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Put the ball of dough in the bowl and rotate it to coat completely with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp, clean cloth and let rise for 1 to 1½ hours or until dough has doubled in bulk. If it’s a bit cold in your kitchen, preheat the oven for a minute then turn it off and put the bowl of dough in there to rise.
  • When it has doubled in bulk, turn the dough onto a stone counter or a floured board.
  • Divide the dough into three approximately equal pieces using a sharp knife. Roll each piece into a long ‘snake’ about 1 ½ inches in diameter and about 12 inches long. Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and braid, starting with the middle strand.
  • Tucking both ends under, place the braid on a parchment lined baking sheet or in a parchment-lined loaf pan.
  • Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise about one hour. Again, if your kitchen is a little cold, put the bread in a barely warm oven for its second rise. It should almost double in height, taking anywhere from 45 – 60 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 360F (be sure to first remove the bread from the oven if it’s been rising in there).
  • Separate the remaining egg, keeping yolk only. Beat yolk and thin it with a very little bit of water then brush a generous amount over the loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Bake about 25 minutes. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
  • Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf; recipe can easily be doubled for two loaves.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I play with words and with food. I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. I'm also an enthusiastic explorer of faraway lands and cuisines.

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