Challah (pronounced haa-luh) bread is a braided Jewish bread which is usually eaten on special occasions and holidays. It’s similar in looks to brioche but Challah bread is Kosher and can be eaten at any time, with any meal and it does not have any butter in the making so although it is full of flavour, it’s not quite as rich as brioche.
I remember the first time I had it, I saw it in a local shop in Edinburgh as a teenager while I was living there for school and I thought it was the prettiest bread. I was not familiar with braided bread, the food that I was used to eating at that time was mostly made for function and not aesthetics so I was keen to buy this glossy, sweet looking bread and I took it all the way back to Aberdeen to have with my family.
It was sweet, it was soft and all it needed was a little butter. I could honestly eat a loaf in one go. I just thought this bread was delicious. This became a little bit of a routine and I would often buy it before travelling home, who knows what I was thinking or how I travelled on the train or bus with a fresh loaf of bread without squashing it but it always stuck in my mind.
Fast forward a few years and I’m searching for challah bread recipes. Bread can be notoriously difficult to make if you don’t know how but I really wanted to know how to make challah bread. Making loaf after loaf after loaf, I have been working on my recipe and I’m still working on that aesthetic although I can honestly say that the taste is great.
I decided to make honey challah for a little added sweetness and because it can make some great French toast.
- 2 1/4tsp Dry active yeast
- 550g Bread flour (4 cups)
- 60g Sugar (1/4 cup)
- 3tbsp Olive oil
- 3 Eggs
- 200ml Water
- 5tbsp Honey
- 1tsp Salt
- Large mixing bowl
- Rolling pin
If you do not have a rolling pin then grab a bottle or tin of some sort
- Add your 2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast to approx 180ml warm water.
Set aside for around 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
This surface should begin to have a frothy look to it and the liquid look creamy when mixed.
- Place your dry ingredients (flour, salt and sugar) into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine before creating a well in the middle.
- You want to lightly beat two of your eggs in a small bowl.
- In the middle of your well you want to add the 2 tbsp olive oil and 5 tbsp honey along with your now activated yeast water.
Measure out another 100ml of water and add to the mix slowly if required although you probably won’t need this!
You want your dough to have quite an elastic texture, so be careful not to add too much water.
If you feel that the dough is a little too wet, simply add a little more flour.
- Once your mix is fully combined, flour your worktop and move the dough to your counter before kneading for 8-10 minutes.
You want your dough to be smooth and springy.
- Once you have finished kneading your dough, use 1 tbsp olive oil to coat your clean mixing bowl.
Form your dough into a ball shape and add to to the mixing bowl.
Make sure to cover the dough in the oil from the bowl before placing a cling film cover over the top and leaving to sit in a warm place for 1 hour.
- After one hour, your dough should almost double in size.
- Preheat oven to 200C/350F/180C fan/gas mark 6
- Place your dough back on a floured worktop and punch your dough down to deflate.
- Next, we look at testing your braiding skills.
You can choose to braid Challah in so many ways and there are plenty of tutorials online to help guide you!
For this one, I chose to make a three braid loaf.
Roll out three equal pieces of dough to approx 18-20cm in length, pinch all three pieces together at the top and braid as normal, I gently pinch the bottom of the pieces together and tuck them slightly under once I have reached the end.
- Brush your dough with a gently beaten egg.
Apply this quite liberally and this will give you that glazed look.
- I then leave this for a further 45 minutes at room temperature to further expand.
- Bake for approx 30 minutes before moving to a cooling tray.
Store Challah bread in a plastic wrap/bag at room temperature to keep soft and eat within 4-5 days for best taste.