With it's rich, slightly sweet flavor, shiny golden crust, and pillowy interior, Challah isn't just for the Jewish holidays, it appeals to everyone, anytime! For starters, it's actually pronounced ka-le, ha. Or hallah.
This bread looks complicated, but it's actually really simple to make, and tastes even more amazing. What makes this bread truly special is its distinctive braid, which symbolizes, among other things, the joining of friends and family. This is one of my favorite breads to bake. Or should I say my favorite thing is to eat it?? Because let's face it, who can resist such delicacy?
This is by far one of those breads that you can enjoy in sandwiches, toasts, or with bacon. It's enriched with butter and eggs, making the outside crunchy, but the inside so pillowy-soft.
I remember learning the art of bread making in culinary school, and let me tell you, it's incredible! The possibilities, and the creations are endless! This dough can be used in so many other great desserts. I especially love using this dough for russian pastries, such as piroshki and dumplings. Of course, this dough isn't just great for desserts, but also as savory. I enjoy making garlic dinner rolls with extra dough!
But by far, this old recipe has definitely been one of my many favorites!
A few Tips for Making Challah
You will need room temperature eggs. if they're too cold, your dough will rise very slowly, and I guarantee you that you don't want to wait that long!
I prefer using honey for this bread and not sugar. Because it won't be overpoweringly sweet, and honey actually aids the proofing of the yeast.
If two loaves are too much for your family, freeze one and use it for french toast later! It's so yummy with organic maple syrup and fresh berries.
The dough should rise for about an hour to 1 1/2 hours. But 2 hours works best too.
I'd let the braided dough sit to rise an additional 45 minutes so once it comes out of the oven, it'll be nice and fluffy.
If you don't want two loaves of bread, you are more than welcome to use the other half of the dough for dinner rolls or other european desserts.
I noticed that if your egg wash has egg yolk, your bread will turn slightly yellow in the oven. If you want it to naturally brown, I recommend brushing just plain egg whites wash.
You can definitely put toppings on top. Though I prefer mine plain, here are some ideas on what you can put on top. For sweet bread:
Any Bagel Seasoning
Raw Cane Sugar
For Savory Bread:
Or the old classic, egg wash
I also sometimes enjoy adding in some sort of extra surprise in the dough or filling! Here are other amazing ideas for your unique Challah.
Ricotta Cheese Filling
Cream Cheese Filling
How to Make Challah Bread
Begin by dissolving yeast in warm water. Then slowly stir in the honey.
In a mixer with a hook attachment, mix water, melted butter, flour, and salt. Then add in your yeast mixture and mix some more until smooth.
While the dough is kneading, add in the rest of the dough, and then let it rise for about 2 hours or less.
It's important to punch down the dough to let most of the air out so you can roll out the dough into strands before letting it rise another couple of minutes. Once the dough has risen on the sheet pans, brush with egg whites and sprinkle any topping you desire, or leave it plain.
Bake at 350F. for 35-40 minutes, or just until it turns into a golden brown color.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Let it sit for 4-5 minutes to bloom. Stir in the honey.
Place the 1/2 cup water, melted butter, eggs, 1 cup of flour and the salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until just incorporated. Add the yeast mixture. Stir until smooth.
Knead the dough on medium speed, adding the remaining four a little at a time. Until smooth, elastic and fully developed, about five minutes or so.
Place the dough in a lightly greased/oiled bowl, cover and let it double in size. About 1 - 2 hours.
Punch down the dough to let most of the air out. Divide into six equal portions. Form the dough balls into long strands and braid like you would braid hair. Place the loaves on a paper-lined sheet pan.
Brush the loaves with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if using. Let them stand until slightly double. At least another 45 minutes.
Bake at 350F. for 35-40 minutes. Or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when you thump them on the bottom.