Challah Bread is a rich and fluffy loaf full of flavor. A Jewish traditional loaf, this incredible bread is going to be a favorite in your family baking!
Bread is a staple in our household, and homemade is always the best. Whether it is Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread, Grandma’s Perfect Homemade Bread or this decorative Star Bread they get devoured!
Challah bread is a traditional bread that originates in the Jewish religion. This sweet enriched dough is often served on the Shabbat table and for major Jewish Holidays such as Rosh Hashanah. Although it is not served during the Passover when leavened bread is not served. But you do not have to be of the Jewish religion to enjoy this incredibly moist tender bread. Once you try this delicate bread, you will find it belongs on every table.
Part of the enchantment of the Challah bread (pronounced “haa·luh”) is the spectacular shiny loaf in it’s braided form. Do not worry, it is easier than it looks. The braids have significant meanings in Jewish religion and are a significant part of making Challah. You have to give the braiding a try when you make this bread. Alone the loaf is perfectly rich, tender and exquisite, but with the braiding it’s divine. You place a challah loaf in all it’s glory on the table and there will be ooh’s and aahh’s at the table for sure. I love the symbolism behind the Challah bread and importance it brings to Jewish ceremonies. When you make this bread, whether you understand it all or not, you will know you are making something special.
Ingredients For Challah
Have your eggs at room temperature for best mixing results. All of these ingredients are easy to find at your local store, or possibly in your pantry already to go!
- All purpose flour: Unbleached or bread flour will also work perfectly here, giving your challah a good structure.
- Brown sugar: This gives the bread it’s sweetness and helps the bread retain moisture.
- Salt: For bread to taste amazing, it needs salt, otherwise it will be bland and lifeless.
- Dry active yeast: Instant yeast will also work with success here. I will explain the difference below.
- Eggs: This creates the enriched dough along with the oil. It give the dough more depth than regular dough.
- Warm water: Watch the temperature of your water, you do not want it too hot or it will kill the yeast.
- Vegetable oil: This is another ingredient that creates that rich flavor and moist tender bread.
- Egg yolk, for egg wash: Thin with a bit of water if needed. It will create a great shiny crust for your challah.
- Poppy Seeds or Sesame Seeds (optional): This is to sprinkle on the loaves after you have put the egg wash on. They are decorative and optional.
Making the Perfect Challah
Challah bread is meant to be made taking great care and effort with the dough. In some traditions if made rushed and while in a bad mood, your challah will fall flat and not turn out. So put some love into your challah and enjoy the process and the incredible aroma that will fill your kitchen.
- Dry Ingredients: Mix 4 cups of flour with the other dry ingredients together in bowl of stand mixer.
- Wet: Add the wet ingredients (make sure the water is just barely warm—don’t kill the yeast!) and mix at medium low speed with dough hook until combined. If the dough is still sticky, add the additional ¼ cup of flour. Scrape the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
- Kneading: Mix at low speed for 5 minutes or until smooth
- 1st Rise: Once smooth, dump dough on a lightly floured counter and form into a ball. Place dough into an oiled bowl, metal or glass, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Oven: Preheat the oven to 350.
- Remove: Once the dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.
- Preparing the dough for braiding: Cut the dough into two equal sections and using your hands, roll into a large log about 12 inches long. From here you can cut each log into either 6 strands or 3, depending on your preference, but keep them attached at one end.
- Braid: Braid strands together in a traditional 3 strand braid or a 6 strand braid [insert photos showing how to do a 6 strand braid]. Once the strands are too short to continue braiding, tuck under to form the end of the loaf.
- Rest: Place the loaf on a greased baking sheet and let it rise for 30 minutes.
- Egg Wash: Mix a little water with the egg yolk and use a pastry brush to coat the dough evenly. Sprinkle on optional sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
- Bake: Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
- Cool: Allow to cool completely before cutting.
How To Braid A Three Strand Challah
If you can braid your daughter, sister, aunt or uncle’s hair you can braid a three strand loaf of challah bread. If you are new to braiding three strand is great place to start. Take care to keep the dough taunt but not tight. Otherwise it will form large gaps.
- Three Strand: Starting on the right side, cross the right strand over the middle strand so it now sits in the middle. Then take the left strand and cross it over the middle strand, to now become the middle strand. Repeat alternating right, then left till you reach the end of the dough. Pinch the ends together and fold them under and tuck under the loaf. Gently place on prepared baking sheet.
Tips For Soft Tender Challah Bread
Bread is a work of art, and in many ways like art, bread can be very forgiving. But there are few things you want to make sure you do so that you at least end up with a tasty loaf, no matter what it looks like.
- Yeast: For this recipe I used dry active yeast, which means you need to activate it. Which means you will definitely want to mix it with the warm water first to feed it and to get it going. Instant yeast will also work with this recipe and you do not have to activate with warm water before mixing it into your bread dough.
- Warm Water: Make sure your water is below 110 degrees F before you add the yeast or you’ll kill it. But also make sure it’s above 80 degrees F or it won’t activate it, it’ll be too cool. If you have a thermometer use it for best results.
- Oil: Unlike a Brioche bread which calls for butter, a Challah uses oil to create moisture and richness.
- Kneading: Be sure to knead the bread for a good 5 minutes with the mixer or 10 minutes by hand. It’s a good arm work out by the way. This develops the gluten which is essential for a good bread.
- Egg Wash: Brush with egg wash before the second rise, it will add moisture to the bread and give it a nice glossy shine when baked. You can re-apply the egg wash if you desire right before baking.
- How to Know Your Bread Is Done: Insert an instant read thermometer into the center of your bread in the middle of the loaf. The internal temperature of a properly cooked loaf will be between 190 and 210 degrees. This will ensure your dough is not raw when you cut into it.
Variations For Your Challah Bread
When it comes to baking Challah bread the tradition keeps it pretty basic but also pretty delicious.
- Add ins: During Rosh Hashanah the dough will be filled with raisins golden or regular and rolled into a crown. This is a great sweet addition. You can also mix in mini chocolate chips into your loaf.
- Toppings: After you use the egg wash sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds or even pumpkin seeds for bit of crunch to the crumb. Cinnamon and sugar also make a great sweet topping.
- Richer: If you want an even richer loaf, add another egg to the dough.
- Sweet: Use ⅓ cup of honey instead of brown sugar as your sweetener.
How To Braid A Six Strand Challah Bread
This isn’t as scary as it sounds or looks, and the result is absolutely beautiful. Don’t stress it too much and have fun with it. Your Challah bread will taste amazing however it looks.
- Six Strand Braid: For starters it is important to remember that you always start with the strand that is furthest to the right. Now memorize this saying to repeat as you briad, “over 2, under 1, over 2” Take the strand furthest to the right and weave it towards the left through the other strands using this pattern: over 2 strands, under 1 strand, over 2 strands.Take the strand furthest to the right and repeat the weaving pattern again: over 2 strands, under 1 strand, over 2 strands. Repeat this pattern, always starting with the strand furthest to the right, until the whole loaf is braided. Tuck the ends under the loaf and place on prepared baking sheet.
Storing Leftover Challah Bread
We all know that leftover Challah bread makes the best french toast, or stuffed french toast, so it is totally ok to save a loaf for later.
- Store: Keep Challah bread tightly wrapped at room temperature for 4 days. Use for french toast, and sandwiches.
- Freeze: Tightly wrap the loaf in plastic wrap and then place in a freezer safe bag for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter before using.
Bread Recipes to Try
Making bread is almost as therapeutic as eating it can be. There is something about the kneading and mixing that just helps melt the world away. And then that smell! The rich aroma of fresh baked bread that fills the house is pure heaven. It is almost torture to have to wait for it to cool so you can slice it up and slather it with whatever tempts you. Whether you are beginner or pro, I have a tried and true recipe for you to try.
- Traditional Soda Bread
- Homemade Buttery Beer Bread
- Miracle No Knead Bread
- Easy Homemade Naan
- Homemade Parker House Dinner Rolls
- 4-4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon dry active yeast
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup warm water
- ½ cup Vegetable oil
- 1 egg yolk for egg wash
- Poppy Seeds optional
- Sesame Seeds optional
Making the dough
- Mix 4 cups of flour with the other dry ingredients together in bowl of stand mixer.
- Add the wet ingredients (make sure the water is just barely warm—don’t kill the yeast!) and mix at medium low speed with dough hook until combined. If the dough is still sticky, add the additional ¼ cup of flour. Scrape the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
- Mix at low speed until smooth, about five minutes.
- Once smooth, dump dough on a lightly floured counter and gently form into a ball. Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise.
- Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Forming the braid
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.
- Using a sharp knife or pizza roller, cut the dough into two equal sections and using your hands, very gently roll into a large log about 12 inches long. From here you can cut each log into either 6 strands or 3, depending on your preference, but keep them attached at one end (see photo for example).
- Being careful to handle the dough gently and not stretch out the strands of dough, braid the strands together in a traditional 3 strand braid or a 6 strand braid (see photo for step-by-step example). Once the strands are too short to continue braiding, pinch together and tuck under to form the end of the loaf. The top of the loaf can be pinched and tucked to match.
- Place the loaf on a greased baking sheet or parchment lined baking sheet.
- Mix a little water (about a teaspoon) with the egg yolk and use a pastry brush to coat the dough evenly. Sprinkle on optional sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
- Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.
- Allow to cool completely before cutting.