Before I began cooking I looked up Challah bread online and learned that it’s a traditional Jewish bread eaten on Shabbat. You will also see it referred to as ‘egg bread’ because of the amount of eggs used in it.
The recipe had wonderful reviews online, however the only issue was that it called for preparing the dough in a bread machine. I don’t have a bread machine, however I figured I that there’s a way to alter the recipe and make it by hand. I looked at some other Challah recipes and got an idea of how I should prepare the dough without a bread machine. I didn’t know this, but with a bread machine, the dough rises while it’s in the bread machine. Then machine kneads it and allows it to rise. Making the dough without a bread machine is not hard, you’ll just find yourself kneading the dough more and planning enough time for it to rise. If you have a bread machine, then you should refer to the original recipe and follow those instructions vs. the directions I have created below.
The ingredients are items you most likely already have in your kitchen. I had everything but the poppy seeds. The recipe also states that you can use sesame seeds, but I had toasted sesame seeds and I didn’t know if those would work as well since the bread cooks in the oven and the seeds are already cooked. Instead I decided to buy each type of seed at the store and try both since this recipe produces 2 loaves.
The steps for making the dough are actually quite simple. Really what takes the longest amount of time is allowing the dough to rise. All in all this takes about 2 hours, so if you’re looking to make bread and eat it the same day, prepare it earlier in the day. OR you can always make the dough the day before and bake it the next day which is what I did. There is one tip I can share about allowing the dough to rise. I learned this the hard way after I had a disastrous mess in the kitchen from pizza dough that I set aside to rise. Typically recipes will state that you should cover the dough and allow it rise in a warm place. The previous dough I made said to cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Don’t EVER do this without putting a protective layer underneath the towel like Saran wrap. I didn’t and the dough expanded so much that it overflowed out of the bowl and stuck to the towel so bad that I had to throw the towel out. So now when I need to place the dough in warm place, I always cover the top of the bowl with Saran wrap first, then I run a kitchen towel under hot water, wring it out, and place it on top of the bowl. You can then either put the bowl in the microwave or the oven for the rising to take place.
|Covered & ready to rise for 1 hour|
|Placed in microwave to rise|
|After the 1st rise. Doubled; airy & fluffy.|
If you follow the directions you can’t go wrong. I can tell you that the dough will be sticky. That’s okay, the dough for this bread is naturally sticky. I suggest liberally dusting your hands with flour before handling the dough as this will prevent it from sticking to your hands. Also generously dust the counter with flour before placing the dough on it. For the strands, roll dough from the center out until they become long and thin. Think of how you’d make a worm with Play-doh. Use the same technique to make these strands. Honestly once the strands are made it’s pretty fun to braid them. After they’re braided, just make sure to smoosh down the beginning and end points, folding them under the loaf. This will make it so that the bread doesn’t separate while cooking.
|Ready to be seasoned|
Be creative with the seasoning and have fun. I divided the loaves into thirds and put poppy seeds on one section, sesame seeds on another, and sesame, poppy, kosher salt, and some garlic seasoning on the last section. Play around with it and see what seasoning you prefer after the bread is finished and you’ve taste tested them all. Also, keep an eye on the bread while it’s in the oven. An egg wash is used to coat the top of the bread so this part of the bread will brown faster than rest. I prefer a lighter top. When I saw the bread had just the right amount of golden color for us I took the loaves out and covered the tops with foil. You can then continue baking them and the foil will protect them from darkening any further.
Going into the oven the loaves looked great and I have to say when they came out they tasted just as good! My husband and I each had a slice of warm bread with some butter on it and we both agreed that it was very tasty. Ryan even thought it looked like I bought it from a store. And the loaves were very big too! We saved a loaf for ourselves and gave our neighbor one since there’s no way we’d be able to eat all the bread. Something to keep in mind for the future…I learned that you can freeze the dough after it has risen the first time (but not after the 2nd rising).
Adapted from Recipe #142387 by Mirj, food.com
Yields: 2 loaves
Prep Time: 2.25 hours
Total Time: 2.75 hours
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 1/8 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- sesame seeds or poppy seed
- Add luke warm water to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle in yeast and stir. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
- Add to the yeast mixture: egg yolks, salt, flour, sugar. Mix well and as the mixture begins to take on more of a solid form (starting to form a dough ball), add the oil.
- Transfer dough to a well oiled, large mixing bowl. Cover and place in a warm area (such as a microwave or oven). Allow to rise for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
- After dough has doubled, punch down the dough while in the bowl and allow to rise for a second time, doubling in size (approx. 1 hour).
- Divide the dough in half (1 for each loaf).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Divide each piece into three sections.
- Roll each section into a long strand.
- Pinch the top 3 strands together and braid the strands. Once the braiding is finished pinch the bottom ends together. Gently fold both top and bottom pinched ends underneath the loaves.
- Repeat process with remaining dough, to create the 2nd loaf.
- Place loaves on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Make sure to spread apart as the loaves will increase in size.
- Brush the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or a combination of both.
- Bake for 30 minutes.