I have always wanted to make a braided loaf of bread – those shiny knots are so beautiful and appealing. As with any kind of home made bread, this requires an investment of a few hours. Which is why it is only quite recently that I tried out a challah bread recipe I found on The Kitchn. It turned out so well and was such a hit with my bread loving husband that I had to make it again. This time I was determined to take a few pictures and share it here. In my naivety, I thought that sharing a traditional kosher challah recipe would be perfect for the occasion of Passover that’s coming up.
Only later did I realise that challah is actually on the cannot-eat-list for Passover as the dough is leavened. But this bread is so amazingly good that you should try it out on a weekend (after or before Passover ideally for my Jewish friends) and use it for great french toast at breakfast or for a simple lunch sandwich.
The recipe on The Kitchn is really detailed with step by step pictures which is very important especially to get the braid right. I did not make any changes at all to the original ingredients/method except to use an egg-milk wash instead of the recommended leftover egg white. Why am I sharing this recipe here then you wonder? Well, it’s mostly so I can record my challah making success and use it whenever I need reassurance of my bread baking skills.
Challah Bread (original recipe from The Kitchn)
Ingredients (Makes one loaf)
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
4 – 4 1/2 cups plain/all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs + an extra egg for egg wash
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup sunflower or vegetable oil
Sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water and add a good pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve and set it aside until the surface is a little foamy indicating that the yeast has been activated. Mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs, egg yolk and oil. Mix together with a wooden spoon until a loose mixture is formed. Now pour in the yeast mixture and mix it through to start forming a dough. Using a stand mixer, knead the dough for about 6-8 minutes or 10 minutes if doing by hand, until it is smooth and elastic. Even though I used a stand mixer for about 5-6 minutes, I turned it out onto my lightly floured kitchen counter and kneaded it by hand for a few more minutes and shaped it into a ball.
Place the ball into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set it in a warm place for about 1.5-2 hours to rise. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into six equal balls. Using your hands, roll each ball into a long strand of equal thickness, about 16 inches long. If the dough is too springy and doesn’t hold it’s shape, let it rest for about 5 minutes. This should help it relax and make it easier to form the strands.
Get ready to form the braid! Lay all strands beside each other. Pinch them together at the top. To form a braid, lay the right most strand over the two strands next to it. Then take it under the next strand. Then over the next two strands, following a rule of ‘over two, under one, over two’. This makes it the farthermost rope of dough. Repeat this with each right most strand until the end. You’ll find the loaf forming to the left as you keep braiding. Just lift it up and set it straight and continue the process.
Once you have no more ropes left to braid, pinch together the ends and fold it under. Using both hands, plump the loaf like you would a pillow. Transfer the braided dough to a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a little flour on the top and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Place somewhere warm until it rises and becomes fluffy – about an hour.
Towards the end of this, preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Whisk together the egg reserved for egg wash with a splash of milk and use this to generously coat the top of the loaf using a brush. Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes , rotating half way through.
Remove from oven once it is nice and dark golden brown in colour. Let it cool completely before cutting into slices and devouring it.
If these instructions seem daunting, check out the original recipe where the pictures for each step make it easier to follow. It is definitely worth a try and once you get it right, there’s no going back to a normal loaf of bread!