Challah Bread – not your everyday braid

Before I go into my “how you make challah and how not to kill yourself during the braiding process” spiel, I feel like I should share my big news. I’m in the middle of a big life transition right now – a job change.  Therefore, for the past 2 weeks I’ve been stressing about the details. Of course I freaked about getting everything done at my old job to set my successor up for success, getting all of the paperwork done for my new job, and basically ensuring everything is lined up. (I am very excited about it though! I’m going back to my old company.) Both my mom and one of my bosses told me I should not worrying so much about the old job, but apparently my conscience won’t let me do it.  I’m trying to work on the whole “not working as hard” thing though.

While this has been going on I’ve done some cooking, but getting all of those photos from my camera, through the editing software, onto the blog is going a bit… slow.  So here’s my recipe for homemade Challah bread. It’s very easy to make – until you try to braid it. Now part of the problem is I used a recipe that called for a six strand braid. Also part of the problem was I had no idea what I was doing and no visual picture of how it was supposed to just “weave” together.  After a text to S saying “God does NOT want me to braid this challah”, I finally got it worked out. Hopefully I haven’t scared you, because the final method is actually very, very easy. And looks so fancy.

Homemade Challah Bread (recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen, technique from The Shiksa)

1 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups warm (not hot) water

As ever, I halved the recipe, because the last thing S and I need is an abundance of bread for the 2 of us.

In a large mixing bowl, proof the yeast by dissolving 1 tablespoon sugar and yeast in the warm water. Let sit for 15 minutes until a foam has formed.

Whisk in oil to the yeast mixture. Add eggs, sugar and salt, and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.

Slowly add flour (gradually) and continue to mix.

Now the original directions say to turn out dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. My mixing bowl has a very large, flat bottom, and I got a little lazy and kneaded the dough right in the bowl. I felt like the mess was much more contained and it worked just as well as the flat surface. I’m not sure how it would work with a different mixing bowl than mine, but think it could probably be equally as successful.

Drizzle dough with oil, turn to coat and set (covered) in a warm place to rise for an hour or until doubled in size. Original directions indicate you can put in an oven that had been set to 150 and then turned off – I tried this and was very happy with the results.

Now for the braiding. On a flat surface, divide dough into 6 equal parts. For detailed instructions on how to make braids with 3 or 4 strands instead of 6, please refer back to The Shiksa’s instructions, as she details how to create these as well.

Roll each ball into an even strands about an inch wide. Lay all six strands parallel to each other and pinch the tops together to begin the braid.

Taking the outermost right strand, cross it over 2 strands, under 1 strand, and over 2 strands. Once complete, start again with the now outermost right strand and cross over 2, under 1, and over 2. And repeat. You will always start with the outermost right strand and follow the same pattern.

You will likely have to adjust the strands slightly right to keep the braid in a straight line. Just remember, this is pliable dough and you can mess with it.  The only rule is to not change the order of the strands. And yes, in the below picture, my middle strand got out of place, but I put it back where it belonged before I continued the braid.

 When you get to the end, pinch the ends together and tuck under to create a pretty end of your loaf. I also tucked under the top of my loaf because it was looking pretty gross after 15 braiding attempts. Place on a greased baking sheet and brush egg over the top. I put on 2 coats of egg wash to make sure I would have a nice, shiny and brown crust. Let rise for one hour.

Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. This bread is exceptionally delicious warm.

All in all, I was proud of my final product, particularly how nice the braid looked. S was very impressed, and he’s much more the expert on Challah than I am. I will definitely be making this again – if nothing else so I can make more savory french toast with it.



7 thoughts on “Challah Bread – not your everyday braid

    • You hit the nail on the head. Patience was the real issue because I’m a really impatient person, but also a perfectionist! And that’s basically how it got done :) I can’t stress enough about how the final “braiding pattern” turned out to be really easy. I stopped by your blog and loved the background design! Thanks for the comment.

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