Challah (or sometimes, hallah), is a traditional Jewish egg bread. And it is delicious. It makes a very tender sandwich bread that marries well with cold cuts, but I fell in love with it in the form of French toast. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
For this recipe, I turned to my handy copy of the Joy of Cooking. Challah takes a bit of patience to make since you have to give it two full risings, but the effort is worth it! If the loaf isn’t gone within the first day or two, use any leftovers in your favorite French toast recipe. Trust me on this one. Would I ever lead you astray? Don’t believe me? Pinch My Salt agrees with me. If you listen to no one else, listen to her.
The Joy recipe tells you to make a 3-strand challah, but I wanted to be all fancy schmany pants and do a 5-strand braid (tutorials on this can be found on YouTube). The caveat is that when you braid a 6-strand loaf, the strands tend to separate during baking. My recommendation is to stick to the 3-strand method, or go by the Cook’s Illustrated technique which involves one smaller 3-strand loaf stacked on top of a larger 3-strand loaf prior to the final rise.
Top your loaf with poppy seeds or sesame seeds for some flourish!
- 1/2 c. warm water
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3 c. bread flour
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 large yolks, lightly beaten
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 egg for egg wash
- Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)
- Combine yeast and water in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Let stand until yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup of the flour, the eggs, yolks, oil, sugar, and salt to the yeast mixture. Stir until blended.
- Gradually stir in the remaining flour.
- Knead the dough for about 8 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands or the bowl.
- Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it once to coat with oil.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Punch down the dough, knead briefly, and return to the bowl. Let rise until nearly doubled.
- Divide the dough into 3 pieces. On an unfloured surface, roll into balls. Let rest, loosely covered, for 10 minutes.
- Grease and sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal (to prevent the bread from sticking).
- Roll each dough ball into a 14-inch long rope. Braid the dough. Pinch the ends together and tuck both ends of the braid underneath the loaf to hide the seams.
- Loosely cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Whisk together water and remaining egg for the egg wash. Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash, then sprinkle with seeds.
- Baking until the crust is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 to 35 minutes.