I’ve been eating challah since I was a kid and I used to bring it home from the kosher deli I worked in at weekends. It’s a sweet, enriched dough bread which makes the most amazing sandwiches and it looks super impressive because it’s braided but it’s actually really easy to do.
The recipe I use is in American cups but if you don’t have cup measures google does a pretty good converter.
So what do we need?
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 cup of lukewarm water
- 4 cups of bread flour
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup of butter (or oil if you are keeping it kosher)
What to do
Add the yeast to the water in a small bowl with a little sprinkle of sugar. Give it a stir and leave it to do its thing while you get everything else ready. It should start to froth away in the bowl. Then when you add it to your dough, it’s already active and will get things going quicker.
In a big bowl stir together all your dry ingredients. The flour, sugar, and salt. Make sure you get them all mixed together then add the eggs, egg yolk, oil and your lovely frothing yeast. Get this really mixed well. This bit is hard work so feel free to use a stand mixer if you have one. Trust me it’s hard going.
Kneading is the most important step in making bread, this is what makes those gluten strands form and helps your dough to be pillowy soft and rise. You want to knead for about 8 – 10 minutes. You can do this by hand or with a dough hook on a mixer. It might seem sticky, but don’t worry, the more you knead the less sticky it will become. It just takes time.
If you aren’t sure how to knead bread, watch my really short youtube video which shows the process.
Once you have kneaded the bread is ready to do what we call proofing. This basically means letting it rise for the first time. You want it to roughly double in size. So put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with cling film, and place it somewhere warm. Depending on how warm that place is, it could take between 40 minutes and a couple of hours, be patient.
Braiding your bread
Once you are happy that your bread has risen to double the size, you are going to take it out the bowl and do what we call “knocking back”, this just means kneading it again for 5 minutes. You are basically knocking all the air out of it so the yeast gets a second chance to eat all the lovely sugars and rise again.
Now separate the dough into 6 even lumps and roll them into strands or ropes.
Now for the fun, you have 6 strands, so let’s plat them / braid them.
I have another short youtube video you can watch to see how this is done but trust this is much easier than it sounds.
Ok so gather the strands and squeeze them together at the very top and lay them out so you have your 6 strands vertically in front of you.
Right here we go…. we are going to work from right to left.
- Take the strand on the far right and it goes
- OVER the two to its left,
- then UNDER the next one and
- lastly OVER the next two.
- So basically you always start with the strand on the far right and go OVER TWO, UNDER ONE, OVER TWO and then start again and you just keep doing this until you have too little left of your stands to pleat
Once there isn’t enough left to pleat, you just gather up the end like you did the top, and tuck them underneath. And now you have your pleated bread.
Let your pleated bread rise again, for around an hour. I usually put it on a baking sheet and then put a clean tea towel over it and just leave it alone. Once it’s risen again and looks luscious, I egg wash the top (you can use the spare egg white) and I like to sprinkle poppy seeds over it.
When it’s ready pop it into your pre-heated oven on about 170C or 160C for a fan oven for around 35 minutes.
You can see me make this very loaf on youtube.