My second pandemic recipe in two days is for a type of bread that I enjoy frequently. Many of you have asked me for this recipe, which I regrettably have not been able to provide as I had never written one down. I have tried various recipes online, tweaked several times, and combined components that I liked to create my own optimal loaf of challah.
Challah is similar to brioche in that it is enriched with egg and fat. In brioche, the fat is butter. In challah, the fat is oil. I like to use extra-virgin olive oil, whereas other recipes call for canola or vegetable oil. I also prefer many egg yolks (and only yolks—no whites) in my challah for that characteristic yellow colour and eggy flavour. Seven yolks from large free-range eggs, to be precise. In addition, challah is enriched with sugars: in my recipe, I use honey which I prefer over granulated sugar. As an enriched bread, it stays fresh on your countertop for up to five days.
Kneading, proofing, and baking times should be guided less by a
recipe and more by principles as recipes do not take into account the variable chef and environmental factors, such as strength, speed, experience, ambient temperature, humidity, oven temperature, etc. Pay close attention to what your dough is doing. If you are new to working with yeasted doughs, expect a trial-and-error process, some frustrations along the way, but ultimately you will be rewarded with understanding through experience 🙂
The braid of challah is what gives it its characteristic look. For step-by-step tutorial of how to make three-, four-, or six-stranded braids, check out Tori Avey’s blogpost. I have started making six-stranded challahs and have never looked back! It’s actually much simpler than it looks. Just repeat “over 2, under 1, over 2” going from right to left.
Here are some dishes you can make with your loaf of challah!
Simply cut a hole out of a slice, throw on some butter on your skillet and toast your slice of challah, dropping an egg or two into the hole. Then carefully flip to toast the other side (adding more butter, of course).
- Rosewater-Cardamom French Toast
Challah is particularly delicious as French toast and this is one of my favourite recipes.
- Ottolenghi’s Roast portobello mushrooms with brioche and poached egg
A recipe also found in his cookbook Simple, this is one of the best things I have EVER eaten! I have used homemade challah instead of brioche for this recipe every time and it never fails. A good sour cream (such as Western) will truly elevate this dish.
- Challah Panzanella with Butternut Squash, Dates, and Hazelnuts
This is a recipe I stumbled upon when I was researching what to make with leftover challah that was not a decadent brunch dish. Absolutely top notch of a salad. Those *thicc* challah croutons may also be eaten straight as a *snacc*. I added arugula to mine for some greenery.
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 smaller loaves
2 1/4 teaspoons (8 grams) active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
500 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
7 large free-range egg yolks
1/4 cup honey
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Reserved whites of 2 eggs
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Flaky salt, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the yeast, lukewarm water, and sugar. Set aside and allow 10 minutes for yeast activation. Meanwhile, in another bowl, measure out your flour and salt and mix well.
- Once the yeast mixture is foamy and yeasty in fragrance, whisk in your egg yolks, honey, and olive oil into the mixture.
- In 1/2 cup increments, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing with a rubber spatula as you go. Incorporate as much as possible using your utensil until it gets too hard to mix, then get in there with your hand to start squeezing and kneading inside the bowl until you have a cohesive ball of dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding very small amounts of flour if it gets sticky, until you have a smooth, elastic dough that bounces back about half way when indented by your finger.
- Lightly grease the inside of the large bowl you used, then place your dough inside it. Cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel and let it rest in a warm spot for about 90 minutes until the dough roughly doubles in size. If your home is on the cooler side, I boil a pot of water and place it into the oven (turned OFF) along with the dough to create a warm and humid environment.
- Punch the dough down and turn the dough back on to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into however many strands you plan to braid this challah. To be exact, I use a kitchen scale to weigh out the total and then individual pieces of dough.
- Keeping the other dough pieces covered under the damp towel as you’re working, roll out each individual pieces of dough into a large, thin rectangle. Try to avoid adding any more flour at this point. Roll the edge farthest from you toward yourself. Use the palms of your hands against your countertop and then against one another to make a smooth, long rope with gently tapering ends. Set aside and repeat until you have rolled all of your dough into ropes.
- Braid into your desired pattern (consult Tori Avey’s blogpost for options), squeezing both ends and tucking them under. Place your braided loaf onto a parchment-lined baking tray, cover again with the damp towel, and set aside to rise again for another 30-45 minutes (longer if cooler room temp). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg whites, water, and salt. Brush over the top of the loaf, getting into the nooks and crannies and all around the sides. Sprinkle with any optional topping if you wish at this point.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the tray, add another layer of egg wash within the expanded areas between strands that are now exposed. Put back into the oven, turning the tray to face the other side for even baking. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, watching closely for the last 10 minutes or so, until deeply golden brown. Remove and let cool on a cooling rack before slicing or tearing or biting into the whole thing.