Beautiful Braided Challah
Challah is a simple bread enriched with eggs and oil and sweetened with sugar or honey. The braided loaf is a staple in Jewish households and is usually made and served during the Sabbath; Friday sunset through Saturday sunset, although it is appropriate to make and enjoy challah any day of the week. I’ve made hundreds of challahs and tried many different recipes, but I keep coming back to this one, which produces a consistent loaf with perfect sweetness and color. Sometimes I’ll top the loaves with poppyseeds, sesame seeds, “everything” bagel seasoning, and even za’atar and sea salt. I’ve made cinnamon challah and challah stuffed with apples. For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, challah is traditionally made in a round shape. I usually make a three-braid challah, but feel free to use as many strands as you like. As an enriched bread, challah stays fresh and soft for days, but don’t forget to let some get a little stale – it makes the best French toast, although brioche lovers may disagree!
- Servings Makes one large loaf or two smaller loaves
For the dough:
- 6 ml (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 71 ml (1/3 cup) honey or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) canola oil
- 10 ml (2 teaspoons) salt
- 540 - 720 grams (4 ½ - 6 cups) bread flour
For the egg wash and baking:
- 1 egg
- 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) salt
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) honey or Lyle’s Golden Syrup, optional, for slightly darker crust
- Seeds, spices, or other toppings as desired
- For the dough: In a mixing bowl or bowl of an electric mixer, combine 60 ml (1/4 cup) lukewarm water, yeast, and sugar. Stir and set aside to activate for 10 minutes.
2. Add 296 ml (1 1/4 cups) lukewarm water, egg, egg yolks, honey or syrup, oil and salt. Whisk to blend. Add flour 118 ml (½ cup) at a time, mixing until dough pulls away from the bowl. Knead for 10 minutes in an electric mixer, or by hand. Cover bowl with a towel and allow it to rest for ten minutes. Knead another 5 minutes. Grease another large bowl with oil and add the dough ball, making sure to oil all sides. Cover with cling film or a damp towel and set aside in a warm spot for 1 hour.
3. Punch the dough down, and set aside in a warm spot for 1 more hour. Punch down and turn out onto a floured counter. Knead until dough is no longer sticky.
4. Preheat oven to 177°C (350°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Braid the dough and place it on the parchment. Cover with a towel and let rise for another 40 minutes.
5. For the egg wash and baking: In a small bowl, combine the egg with 15 ml (1 tablespoon) cold water. Beat until smooth. Add the salt and honey or syrup., and mix well. Brush over the surface of the braided dough and sprinkle with desired toppings. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush the center of the braids with another thin coat of egg wash. Add more toppings to the center of the braids, turn the baking sheet, and bake another 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack.