I have two versions of this recipe using the breadmaker and manual labor. This posting will be for manual labor. This recipe makes about two (2) 2-lb challahs. Use one for Shabbat and one for french toast the next morning.
For the past 10 years, I have been making challah with my breadmaker. With the pandemic and all the new at-home challah bakers, I wanted to try my hand at “by hand” challah. Yes it is messier and yes I get covered in flour, but I control the process, so I can only be mad at myself instead of the breadmaker. I converted my recipe into a step-by-step by hand process adding in some tricks I had learned from Jamie Geller and Tori Avey.
I highly recommend these videos for learning the techinque for the 4-Braid and the 6-Braid. Those are my go two braids.
Also, for those of you into mindfulness and reading, I also recommend the book Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs. This book explains every ingredient in the challah and their place in the recipe.
Happy Baking and Shabbat Shalom
- 1 ¼ cups warm water (110 degrees)
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup white granulated sugar + 1 tsp for proofing
- 5 cups all-purpose flour ( I use Gold Medal or Generic)
- 1 teaspoon iodized salt
- 3 teaspoons yeast (if you have a jar) or 1 packet fast rise bread machine yeast
- 1 egg for egg wash
Prepping the Yeast
1. Pour ¼ cup of the lukewarm water (about 110 degrees) into a large mixing bowl. Add 3 teaspoons of active dry yeast ( or 1 packet of active dry yeast) and 1 tsp of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy. No need to wait for proofing.
Prepping the Dough
1. Once your yeast has activated, add remaining 1 cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the egg, sugar, oil, and salt. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend the ingredients together. I used my KitchenAid with the bread hook.
2. Begin adding the flour to the bowl by half-cupfuls, stirring with a large spoon each time flour is added. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead.
3. To knead, place sill pat on the counter and lightly dust with flour. Pour ball of dough on counter and knead for 2-3 minutes. For me, this is 100 kneads of the dough
4. Lightly oil the inside of a large bowl and push down back into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so that both side are moistened by the oil. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Wait until step 5 is complete before putting into the oven.
5. Place a saucepan full of water on the stove to boil.
6. Place the bowl of dough on the middle rack of your oven. Take the saucepan full of boiling water and place it below the rack where your dough sits. Close the oven, but do not turn it on. The pan of hot water will create a warm, moist environment for your dough to rise. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until the dough doubles in size. This may take longer depending on a number of things like where you live, temperature in the oven, the house etc. Don’t punch too early.
Braiding the Dough
7. Take the dough bowl out and punch it down several times to remove air pockets.
8. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour longer, or until the dough doubles in size.
9. In prep for braiding, lay out your sill pat (or counter) and lightly dust with flour
10. Take the dough out of the oven. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface.
12. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
12. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky
13. Braid or see step 14
14. If you want to be very scientific like me, use a food scale to weigh each ball of dough for similar weights. Watch the two videos posted to see two different braiding techniques.
15. In a small bowl, beat a large egg for your egg wash. Wash all around the challah with a silicone brush.
16. Bake for 30-35 minutes. You want a golden brown top. Sometimes I will turn the pan around in the last 5 minutes for even cooking
17. Remove immediately and cover in foil for another 10-15 minutes to allow for the challah to do the final cook and create the whole challah brown look.