I know the intricate structure can scare you off but don’t be deterred – this is an easy and healthy challah bread recipe. There is a bit of fiddling about with the braid but let’s be real. That’s the fun bit!
You will recognise challah bread as a soft braided loaf, sometimes topped with sesame or poppy seeds. I’m always reminded of pulling cotton candy apart when I break into a freshly baked loaf of challah with its super soft crumb.
Oil or butter?
Why olive oil makes a difference
I opted for oil over butter. Specifically olive oil – which gives the bread a lot of flavour and helps with better volume in the loaf.
If you can try to use a nice quality olive oil you’ll be off to a great start! The better the quality, the less processing it has been through. Meaning more antioxidants and other good stuff. Of course, you can substitute olive oil with vegetable if that’s what you have at hand.
Can I use butter instead?
In Kosher tradition, you do not serve meat with dairy. By removing butter the loaf is dairy-free meaning it is kosher friendly to bake and serve alongside meat. Do note if you choose to bake it with butter the loaf is still kosher, it just can’t be served alongside meat in that tradition.
Of course, if this is not a problem for you feel free to use butter! You will find that the crumb is more tender in a challah loaf baked with butter over oil. In short, it’s up to your personal preference which you will choose. I prefer olive oil and try to keep butter use in my recipes to a minimum anyway so I never have much on hand!
Essential tips for challah bread success
With Challah Bread you want the layers of gluten to be small delicate sheets – when you pull on the dough it should tear and you shouldn’t be able to stretch it so much that you can see through it or stretch it much at really.
To achieve this, make sure you under knead the dough like in the recipe. Don’t worry, the simple kneading technique is why I think this is such an easy challah bread recipe. You just push the dough away from you using your palm while keeping the other end of the dough close to you. Just follow the recipe and you’ll be golden!
There are two stages in the recipe where you leave the dough to rest. To make sure you get the correct texture watch the timing here closely as the temperature of the room can really change how quickly this takes.
When you are checking the dough is ready, press your finger into it lightly:
- If the depression fills in by half it’s ready
- If it bounces back to almost full, it needs a bit more time
- If the dough slightly deflates it has over-proofed and will be less airy and denser when baked
Symobilism of Challah
Challah is special. It has a lot of symbolism and folklore behind it. Some people say the braids represent love or unity because the loaf looks like intertwining arms locked in an embrace!
When you are baking the bread, bake it with that generosity and love in mind. Some people say knead the dough like you love it? And to be honest, it kind of works. Just zone out for a few moments and do your baker thing! Feel the good feelings!
In any case, if you decide to top your bread with seeds (you should – it’s delicious) don’t skimp out! Be very generous with the toppings or the loaf will look sad and sparse which wouldn’t be very symbolic of any type of feelings I hop, unless you are baking this bread for an enemy. In which case, continue on your seedless way!
Why make one loaf when you can make 3
This is a very easy recipe for challah bread but what will make it even easier?
“Bake three loaves not one”
This is the best piece of advice I have ever been given in the bread baking world and I couldn’t not share it.
Something really weird but also magical happens when you increase the quantities enough to make at least 3 loaves. The crumb is always more tender, the crust the perfect balance and the dough somehow tastes so much sweeter. I don’t know. It’s bread magic guys.
Bread magic and it also has something to with the fact that baking more dough at once reduces the chances you overwork the dough, especially in the early stages.
So if you want to go all-in, increase the dough measurements by x3 for everything except the dry yeast (use 15 grams). Bake them in the oven one on top of the other and halfway through baking bring the middle loaf to the bottom, the bottom to the top and the top to the middle. It will be PERFECT. I promise you.
And what are you going to do with three loaves of bread?? Easy, challah bread freezes wonderfully! I slice mine then wrap in clingfilm or an old clean carrier bag and pop it in the freezer. Take a slice out when you need it and put it directly in the toaster. Breakfast is sorted for weeks!
Or why not gift a loaf to a friend? Nothing says I love you more than a freshly baked loaf of bread and there are little few more symbolic than the intertwining arms of a challah loaf.
Do you like this easy challah bread recipe?
Woohoo! Hope you loved it and it turned (or turns!) out great for you. Any questions? Pop them in the comments box below and I’ll get back to you in a hot moment.
Also check out my other bread recipes – there are lots of tips hidden away in these posts!
The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. This is not medical or nutritional advice and intended for information purposes only.