Challah Bread

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.

Loaf of challah bread sliced on a chopping board

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

Under knead

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!

Challah bread loaf unbaked

Slightly Underproof

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
Challah bread braided loaf unbaked

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.

Challah bread loaf unbaked and topped with sesame seeds

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!

Challah Bread

Challah Bread

Easier than you think and tastier than you can remember. This challah recipe won’t let you down.

5 from 1 vote
Servings

1

servings
Prep and rest time

2

hours 

20

minutes
Baking time

25

minutes
Total time

2

hours 

35

minutes

Ingredients

  • 7 grams active dry yeast

  • 2 tbsp warm water

  • 130 grams cool water

  • 1 large egg

  • 40 grams honey

  • 5 grams salt good pinch

  • 40 grams olive oil

  • 400 grams All purpose white flour and extra as needed

  • Topping
  • 1 large egg

  • 1 tbsp water

  • pinch salt

  • 30 grams nigella, poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

  • Make the dough
  • In a mixing bowl add the yeast and warm water and set aside for a couple of minutes until it is foamy. Add the cool water, eggs salt, oil and honey, mixing until well combined.
  • Add the flour and slowly mix together until it is well incorporated with the wet ingredients. The dough should not be very sticky, only slightly tact – check that no dry ingredients have settled on the bottom of the bowl. Keep mixing everything together, lightly kneading the dough in the bowl for about 4 minutes until a soft ball forms.
  • Lightly dust work surface with flour. Tip the dough out of the bowl and use your palms to push the dough away from you while holding the bottom of the dough in place with your other hand. This will tear the top of the dough away from you in one solid stroke. Fold this stretched section to the middle of the dough and then turn the dough one quarter (90 degrees) and repeat the push/tear/fold process for about one minute. After around a minute, push and pull the dough into a round ball.
  • Place the dough in a bowl lightly dusted with flour and sprinkle a little more flour on top and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside until it has risen about 3 quarters. This can take around 40 minutes but time can vary depending on how warm your house is. See the blog post section on slightly under proofing you dough for how to check this.
  • Shaping the dough
  • Use a dough scraper to very carefully lift the dough out of the bowl onto a floured work surface, being very careful not to press any trapped gas out of the dough. Gently pull the dough into a rectangular shape and divide into 3 smaller parts crosswise.
  • Shape the dough by setting one of the three pieces you now have lengthwise on your work surface and use the palm of your hand to flatten this piece further into a rectangle. Fold the top third over into the middle of the rectangle – repeat this two more times until the dough forms a long cylinder. Set this piece aside and repeat the above step with the remaining two pieces.
  • Once complete use both hands to roll the cylinder back and forth to form a long rope shape. When you get to the ends of the rope, press down lightly do the ends are flattened. The rope should be about 14 inches long with tapered ends. Repaeat with the remaining two pieces of dough and lightly flour each rope piece to stop them fusing completely together while baking.
  • Lay the three ropes side by side and pinch the ends together at the top. You can place something on top of this pinch to hold them in place while you braid them. You can now begin braiding the dough by lifting each piece up and over rather tan below and under. By braiding the dough up and over the braid will be more stacked and fat than it is long which makes for a better loaf.
  • When you reach the end of the ropes and there is nothing left to braid, press the ends together using the palms of your hand to seal them in place.
  • Place your braided loaf on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and cover with a kitchen towel. Set this aside to prove until doubled in size. This can again take around 40 minutes but it depends on how warm the room is.
  • Baking the loaf
  • Preheat oven to 200°C fan or 220°C/428°F conventional and set the rack in the middle.
  • Once the dough has proved an is ready to go make the egg wash by mixing egg, water and salt. Brush the entire surface of the loaves including the sides. Make sure the egg wash does not pool in the creases of the braid! Top with a generous amount of sesame or poppy seeds.
  • Bake the loaf for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it, if the top begins to darken too much you cant tent it with kitchen foil. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely before cutting. You can tell if the loaf is baked through by knocking underneath it. If it sounds hollow it is ready!

Nutritional Information

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.

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