Discover the art of making best challah bread recipe, a slightly sweet braided bread that is a staple during Jewish holidays and makes for delicious French toast.
⬇️ Table of Contents
- 🥖 Challah's Cultural Significance
- 👨🍳 What Does Challah Bread Taste Like?
- 🍞 How To Make Challah Bread
- Ingredients and Preparation
- 🫓 Challah Dough
- Different Types of Challah Braids
- 🥖 Additional Tips for Baking Challah Bread
- 🍞 12 Steps of Breading Making
- 🥖 How to Braid Challah Bread
- 📹 Watch How To Make
- How To Store Challah Bread
- 📖 Recipe Card
🥖 Challah's Cultural Significance
Challah bread is one of those foods that makes you think about what it represents. A symbol of good fortune, challah is traditionally eaten during the holiday of Passover, a special Jewish holiday.
In some communities, it's even used to represent the coming of spring. But beyond the ritualistic aspects of eating it, there are many layers to understanding what it stands for.
Traditional Ashkenazic challah comprises six ingredients: add flour, olive oil, salt, lukewarm water, yeast, and eggs. Finely ground almonds or walnuts are often added, especially for Sabbath loaves.
There is a tradition of making it in Israel on Shabbat morning, particularly among Ashkenazic Jews. Traditionally, challah is kneaded overnight, shaped into balls, placed in baskets, and left out overnight.
A similar custom is observed in Yemenite Jewry, where challah is prepared on Thursday nights and eaten on Sunday mornings.
👨🍳 What Does Challah Bread Taste Like?
Made with eggs, the finished product is tender and slightly chewy in all the best ways. The texture of the bread is similar to that of regular bread but has a softer interior.
It tastes more like a sweet bun than sourdough bread, yet, also not bland.
🍞 How To Make Challah Bread
Perhaps Challah bread is best described as a braided egg bread that is lightly sweetened. Or maybe it’s better described as a soft, chewy loaf that’s great for breakfast toast, snacks, sandwiches, butter and jelly, butter and jam, and even butter and more butter.
It’s also the perfect accompaniment to Shabbat dinner because although challah is traditionally eaten during the Sabbath meal, it makes a delicious addition to brunch or lunch.
Ingredients and Preparation
To make challah bread, gather the following ingredients:
- All-purpose flour
- Active dry yeast
- Lukewarm water
- Granulated sugar or honey
- Unsalted butter or oil (if keeping kosher)
- Kosher salt
- Sesame seeds (optional)
🫓 Challah Dough
To make the dough:
- In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment or a large mixing bowl, combine the active dry yeast and lukewarm water. Allow the mixture to sit for about 5 minutes until frothy.
- Add flour, sugar or honey, eggs, butter or oil, and salt to the yeast mixture. Mix until a shaggy dough forms.
- Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface or in the stand mixer for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
🫓 Proofing the Dough
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a clean towel, and let it rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
🫓 Shaping and Braiding Challah Bread
- Punch down the dough and transfer it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into three equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into a rope approximately 1 inch thick. Arrange the ropes side by side, pinch the ends together, and braid them.
- Tuck the ends of the dough underneath the loaf to secure it.
🫓 Baking the Challah
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Brushed with an egg washer, sprinkle sesame seeds on top, if desired.
- Bake the challah for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped.
Different Types of Challah Braids
The Traditional Braid: challah is made three-strand braid representing love, peace, and justice. However, there are many different braiding techniques that can be used to create unique and visually stunning loaves of bread.
Some common styles include:
- Four-Strand Braid: This braid creates a more intricate pattern and is often used for special occasions or holidays.
- Six-Strand Braid: A six-strand braid is a more advanced technique that produces a thick, round loaf, symbolizing the six days of work before Shabbat.
- Round Challah: This circular loaf is typically made for Rosh Hashanah to symbolize the continuity of the year, as it has no beginning or end.
Experimenting with different techniques can be a fun and rewarding way to add a personal touch to your homemade challah bread.
🍞 Customizing Your Recipe
You can also get creative with the ingredients to make it uniquely your own.
Here are some ideas for customizing:
- Add dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, or apricots, to the dough for a burst of sweetness and texture creating incredible sweet bread.
- Mix in spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom for a warm and fragrant loaf.
- Incorporate seeds, such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds, for added crunch and flavor.
- Try different sweeteners, like honey or maple syrup, instead of granulated sugar for more natural sweetness.
- Replace some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat or spelt flour for a more wholesome and rustic loaf.
Remember to adjust the liquid and other ingredients in your recipe accordingly when making these substitutions to ensure the dough maintains the proper consistency.
🥖 Additional Tips for Baking Challah Bread
To help you achieve the perfect challah loaf every time, here are some additional tips and tricks to keep in mind:
- Be patient when proofing your dough. The dough should double in size during the first rise, which can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen. Don't rush this process, as it's essential for a light and airy loaf.
- Use a pastry brush to apply the egg wash evenly and thoroughly over the braided challah. This will help achieve a beautiful, glossy crust.
- Keep an eye on your bread while it's baking. Oven temperatures can vary, so it's essential to monitor the color and doneness of your challah as it bakes. If it's browning too quickly, you can tent the loaf with aluminum foil to prevent it from over-browning.
- Let your challah cool completely before slicing. This will help the bread maintain its shape and texture and make it easier to slice.
By following these tips and the step-by-step recipe provided earlier, you can create a beautiful and delicious homemade braided loaf that will impress your family and friends.
Enjoy this slightly sweet, tender loaf as part of your Shabbat or holiday celebrations, or incorporate it into your everyday meal rotation for a taste of tradition and comfort.
🍞 12 Steps of Breading Making
Once you’ve got everything ready, here’s what you do next:
The Bowel, Hands, and Muscle Method: skip to the challah recipe card for the stand mixer version.
Step One: Heat water to (110 degrees, and add fresh or instant yeast along with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Set it aside for 5 to 10 minutes or until the yeast is fully activated. If nothing happened, the yeast was dead or not stored properly.
Step Two: Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a separate bowl.
Step Three: In another bowl, beat the eggs. Then add the melted butter and mix well.
Step Four: Add the yeast to the eggs and butter once it has bloomed and activated.
Step Five: Stir in the flour a little bit at a time. Once it comes together, the dough will be slightly sticky. You can add a small amount of flour if it is too sticky. A tip would be not to add more flour until what you've added has been absorbed. Test with small additions; follow the recipe card instructions and measurements on the recipe card.
Step Six: Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. This process develops the gluten which provides the bread structure. Without this step, the bread will bake and become flat.
Step Seven: Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
Step Eight: Proofing: Let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, one to two hours. The amount of time that it takes will depend on the yeast.
Step Nine: The dough will have doubled in size. Next, punch the dough to release the gas, and divide it into six equal parts.
Shaping: flatten the dough into a rectangle to remove the air bubbles. Next, roll each rectangle into a long cigar shape. The final step is to roll with the palms of your hands into one-foot - 12-inch long ropes.
Step Ten: Second bread proofing. Cover the ropes with a towel and set them aside for 30 minutes. Afterward, roll the braids to one and a half feet long. Then perform the braiding process explained in detail on the recipe card below.
Step Eleven: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the challah bread with egg wash (one egg beaten) right before baking.
A traditional topping of a sprinkle of sesame seeds and poppy seeds is a must for some bakers. The sesame seeds and poppy seeds add to the beautiful presentation. Bake for 25–35 minutes, until 190° internal temperature and golden brown on top.
Step Twelve: Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely. Slice and serve.
🥖 How to Braid Challah Bread
First, roll out six long threads of dough on a lightly floured surface, line them side-by-side, and pinch the tops together. Move the outermost strand to the middle, then fold it over two strands to the opposite side.
Continue folding each strand over two strands, alternating sides every few steps until you reach the end. Pinch the ends together and tuck them underneath.
Step by Step demonstration within recipe card below.
📹 Watch How To Make
How To Store Challah Bread
Storing challah can be tricky because it needs to be kept cool and fresh. Wrap it in plastic or a sealed ziplock bag. To make sure it stays moist, you might even consider freezing it.
If you freeze it, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
Challah Bread and Brioche: A Comparison
While challah and brioche share similarities in taste, texture, and appearance, the two breads have some key differences. The primary distinction lies in their ingredients and cultural origins.
Challah is often made with oil to keep it kosher. This is because, according to Jewish dietary laws, dairy, and meat cannot be consumed together.
However, some challah recipes, like the one provided earlier, use butter instead of oil for a richer flavor and texture. This variation may not be suitable for those following strict kosher guidelines.
On the other hand, brioche is a French bread made with butter, giving it a rich and tender crumb. Brioche is also often made with milk, further differentiating it from challah.
Despite these differences, both challah and brioche are slightly sweet, enriched yeast breads that can be used interchangeably in many recipes.
How To Use Challah Bread
When made into French toast or strata, challah soaks up eggs and milk like a sponge, making it especially rich and flavorful.
And because it's slightly sweet, challah makes an excellent base for fruit or chocolate spreads. Challah can also be grilled or fried - one common way of eating it is by dipping slices of challah in olive oil or butter and then frying them until golden brown.
📖 Recipe Card
How To Make Challah Bread
- 1 tablespoon Instant Yeast
- 1 tablespoon Sugar Add a tablespoon of sugar to warm water to feed the yeast so it will grow.
- 1 ⅛ cups Water Temperature: 110 F / 43.3 C
- 3 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour Add more if the dough is too wet
- 3 oz Butter ¾ of a stick of butter
- 2 large Eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoon Sea Salt / Kosher Salt
- ¼ cup Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Sesame Seeds Garnish on the outside of the bread
- 1 teaspoon Poppy Seeds Garnish on the outside of the bread
- 1 large Egg Egg wash to promote golden brown bread
- ⅙ cup Olive Oil Brushing before baking (Optional)
Making Challah Bread
- Bloom The Yeast: The first step is blooming 1 tablespoon of yeast with 1 tablespoon of sugar with the 1 ⅛ cups of warm water. The yeast will eat the sugar resulting in yeast activation. The yeast will bubble up and grow in size. Make sure you use a large enough bowl.
- Combine Dough Ingredients:Add the eggs, melted butter, and bloomed yeast to the mixing bowl. Use the paddle attachment, and mix together for 10 seconds. Add 1 ½ teaspoon of sea salt along with ½ of sugar to the all-purpose flour. Begin adding the flour to the wet ingredients with the mixer at the lowest mixing speed. Make sure the Kitchenaid is in the locked position.Add the flour little by little until all has been used. The challah dough will look somewhat sticky. If too sticky, add more flour ¼ of a cup at a time. Allow the dough to adsorb the flour before adjusting by adding more.
- Kneading The Dough:Change the paddle attachment to the dough hook. Turn the machine on the lowest setting, and mix with the machine for 6 to 8 minutes.This process activates the gluten in the wheat flour. This is what gives the bread structure. Skip this step, and your bread will spread while baking and become flat.
What is Proofing Bread?
- Before baking, bread dough needs to go through a process called "proofing." This allows the yeast in the dough to activate and produce carbon dioxide gas. This gas makes the bread rise and gives it a characteristic airy texture.
- Proofing The Challah Bread:After 6 to 8 minutes of kneading the dough, turn the machine off, remove the dough hook and scrape the dough into a ball using a large spoon. Next, use cooking spray on the dough to help with removal once the proofing is complete. Cover with plastic wrap.Allow the dough to rise in a warm location, not warmer than 85 degrees, for 1 to 2 hours or doubles in size.
- Bread Punch Down:Now the dough has doubled in size, it is time to punch it down and release the gas that was created. The dough will deflate.
- Rolling Out The Ropes/Braids:Form the dough into a flatened rectangle.6 Rope Braid: Divide in half, then make 3 perpendicular (90-degree) cuts. 3 Rope Braid: The recipe makes two 3 rope loaves of bread. Divide in half, then make 3 perpendicular (90-degree) cuts. Flatten each rope to remove the air bubble pockets into a long rectangle.
- Very important step. Roll each rope into a long cylinder. This will create creases, as the bread bakes, the creases will trap steam and force the ropes to become fluffy.
- Second Proofing:Place each rope on a cookie sheet and cover it with a towel. Allow to rise and complete a second proof of 30 to 40 minutes.Afterward, roll each rope one last time into the desired length. Suggested 1 ½ feet/ 16 inches.
How To Braid the Challah Bread
- Plan to either make 3 rope or 6 ropes loaves of bread. I'll explain both:3 Rope Braid: - Layout 3 ropes side by side and pinch the tops together.- Starting with an outside rope, cross over the middle rope.- Finish the first braid by repeating, but starting from the opposite side of where you started. Example: You started with left braid, then you finish moving the right braid to the middle position.If any of this sounds challenging, it is until you learn how. I have a video above on this demonstrating how to do this.
- 6 Rope Braid:- Layout 6 ropes side by side and pinch the tops together.The first move is to cross the top 2 ropes, as seen in the photo.* Important: Each movement starts with the top ropes. You will move one of these every movement. But, you must replace them once you move them to create a fresh starting position. The next photo will demonstrate which one you must move.
- The first movement in the braid is moving 1 top rope into the middle position.
- I want you to look at this photo's new 4th red arrow. Take note that the first moved rope crossed over the top rope. This is important if you get confused about which step you're on. If you need guidance, look at the top to see which side is next to cross over the top-notch.
- Time to replace the top starting rope position. This is easy to follow, you will always move from the opposite side from where the rope at the top is missing.
- Half of 1 braid is now complete. To finish, repeat the same steps, only starting from the opposite side.
- Starting on the opposite side. We moved the left rope to start last time. This time we will start with the right side.
- Next is to replace the top rope position. Move to the right position.
- Now, this is a repeat over and over again until you reach the length and size you like.
- Second BreadStandard bread procedure requires a second proof. The volume of your bread and braid will increase.How Much? That will depend on how active the yeast has become. The second is how long you proof a second time. I suggest keeping it under 30 minutes or risk the bread over proofing.
Baking Challah Bread
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Paint an egg wash over the bread's exterior for a golden brown presentation. Some enjoy using olive oil or butter. A traditional topping of sesame seeds and poppy seeds is a must for some bakers. The sesame seeds and poppy seeds add to the beautiful presentation. Bake for 25–35 minutes, with an interior temperature of 185 to 190 degrees.
Types of Challah BreadThere are many types of challah bread, some of the most popular include:
- Braided challah
- Round challah
- Egg challah
- Sweet Challah
- Whole Wheat Challah
- Cinnamon Raisin Challah
- Chocolate Chip Challah
- Marble Challah
- Onion Challah
- Potato Challah
- Pumpkin Challah