Braided challah bread is the first item I checked off of my 2021 Baking Bucket List. Why did I pick challah to conquer first? We’ve been snowed in here in Oklahoma and this slightly sweet bread makes the perfect baking project for a day in!
Challah and I have a complicated relationship. I don’t know if it was a side effect of teaching virtually during a pandemic, but it took me three tries to get the dough exactly the way I wanted it! After testing a few methods, my favorite way involves making a quick starter and using granulated sugar instead of the traditional honey. This results in a perfectly risen loaf and a smooth, soft dough. Plus, it’s a foolproof method! It just takes a bit more time and patience. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
What is Challah?
Challah (pronounced haa-luh) is a jewish bread that is typically braided. Sometimes you will see loaves braided into fun shapes. It is slightly sweet and similar in taste to brioche, but unlike brioche, challah does not include butter. Day old challah is arguably the best bread to use for french toast. That is, if you have any left on day two.
How to Braid Challah Bread
Fun fact about me : I can barely braid my hair. Nonetheless, I attempted a 6 strand braid for this loaf of challah. You can, of course, keep it simple and braid with three strands. If you want to try the six strand braid pictured in this post, I highly recommend this video tutorial from King Arthur Baking. The video quickly shows you the braid pattern. It’s quite mesmerizing.
Braided Challah Bread Ingredient Line Up
This recipe only requires 6 ingredients, making it a budget friendly recipe that you likely already have ingredients for in your pantry!
- Instant Yeast
- All purpose flour
- Vegetable Oil
- Granulated sugar
- Large eggs
- Poppy seeds or sesame seeds – These are optional and to sprinkle on top of the loaf.
Tips for Braided Challah Bread Success
- Patience – Do not rush your starter or rise time! I promise it is well worth the wait. Make sure you have adequate time before starting.
- Add 3 cups of flour at first. Add in additional flour 1/4 cup at a time until your dough feels smooth. Do not add more than 1 additional cup.
- This bread does not need a lot of kneading. However, a few minutes will help your dough come together.
Braided Challah Bread
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- poppy or sesame seeds optional
- In a small bowl, combine the lukewarm water (approx. 110°F), yeast, and 1 cup flour.
- Place the starter in a warm place and let it rise for 30-45 minutes.
- Transfer the starter to a large mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining challah dough ingredients to the starter, starting with 3 cups of flour.
- Mix the ingredients together using a dough hook or wooden spoon. If needed, add up to 1 more cup of flour. Knead for a few minutes until the dough feels soft and smooth.
- Transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl and cover. Let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours, until the dough is double in size.
- After the dough has risen, transfer dough to a floured work surface. Divide the dough into your desired amount of strands for your braid.
- Roll each portion of dough into a 15"-20" log shape.
- On a large baking sheet lined with greased parchment or a silicon mat, braid the loaf.
- Cover the loaf and let it rise at room temperature about 1 hour.
- Toward the end of the rise time, combine the egg wash ingredients in a small bowl and preheat oven to 375°F.
- Brush the dough with the egg wash and bake 30-35 minutes.
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