My most impressive loaf to date is this beautifully braided challah. I made this in culinary school on bread day, and it was the best tasting bread of the day. Known as egg bread, freshly baked challah is rich, slightly sweet, and altogether delicious on its own or smeared with softened butter. It also makes for an excellent sandwich bread.
After a few days, my favorite way to enjoy challah is dunked in custard and made into french toast. Its light and tender texture combined with its rich and eggy flavor is ideal for french toast and sopping up maple whipped cream and syrupy goodness. Try my favorite challah french toast recipe here.
What is challah?
Before living in New York, I didn’t know how popular and culturally significant challah bread is to Jewish people. Challah, pronounced ‘ha-luh’, is an enriched bread that can be made in less than 3 hours. It’s considered an “egg bread” and has a rich and wonderful flavor.
What are the stages of making challah?
- Activation of yeast (water+yeast+sweetener)
- Kneading the dough (develops gluten structure)
- First rise/proof/fermentation (45 minutes-1 hour)- poke your dough with your index finger and if it doesn’t fill in then your dough has risen enough
- Fold and turn dough to release gas and redistribute the yeast for further rising
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 once more for a lighter dough
- Scaling/dividing dough to form equal length ropes for braiding
- Braid the ropes and cover,
- Final rise/proof/fermentation (20 minutes)
- Bake dough –Egg Wash–Bake dough OR Egg Wash–Seeds–Bake Dough
I know, right? It looks like a lot of steps. The good news is, this recipe will reward your time and effort with two beautiful loaves. I really enjoy making bread, but man, can it be disappointing when you put in the time and don’t get good results.
I’d say this is a great introductory bread for anyone looking to see amazing results right off the bat. I’m also going to show you how to tie your bread so you can feel like a total rockstar when you pull it off.
While many people opt for a three-rope braid, the eggy dough has a tendency to shape out instead of up during the bake. Since a six-rope braid gives a better rise, I opted for this approach. I once saw a challah that was made by stacking two three-rope braids (keeping the smaller of the two loaves for the top layer)–this definitely creates a handsome challah if you’d like to try it instead.
Six Strand Braids
- 2 1/4 cups warm water, 110°
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 T active dry yeast
- 3 large eggs, beaten plus 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 2 T sea salt
- 7-8 cups all purpose flour
- 3 eggs, beaten with 2 T water
- Preheat oven to 350°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, add water, honey, and yeast. Proof until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add eggs, butter, salt, and just enough flour until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Knead for up to 10 minutes to form a smooth dough. Transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and move to a warm place. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in size. Meanwhile, prepare 2 sheet trays with parchment paper. After first rise, turn and fold dough and leave to rise a second time for another 1 hour.
- Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. To make a 6 strand braid, divide each ball into 6 equal portions. Roll each piece of dough into logs of roughly equal widths and lengths (about 1" by 12"). Pinch logs of dough at top and follow instructions for 6 strand braid (see pictures above).
- Loosely cover braided challahs with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 20 minutes until doubled in size.
- Bake bread approximately 30 minutes until internal temperature is between 190° and 205°. Brush the bread with the egg wash and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and allow to completely cool before slicing.
- If you want a loaf that has seeds, then you will want to brush the egg wash over the raw dough and sprinkle with seeds just prior to baking. Since the egg wash goes on in the beginning of the bake, your challah will be slightly darker.
*Recipe adapted from The Natural Gourmet Institute
Use up day old challah by making this french toast recipe.
I hope you found this challah loaf and 6 strand braid easy and rewarding to make. Please bookmark this recipe or share with your friends. Tag me @thefrayedapron on Instagram to show me all the ways you enjoy your challah loaf.