November 14, 2012

Classic Challah Bread

I have always loved the idea of home-made bread. My Mom made our sandwich bread for much of my childhood, and while sometimes I got tired of it (spoiled little thing that I was!) I still loved that she made it. When I ventured out on my own home-making journey, I was seriously intimidated by breads. Anything that involved yeast, rising, and kneading was scary to me. I mastered biscuits, quick breads and muffins pretty quickly, but still steered clear of yeasty things. Until blogging :)

Starting with that no-knead Dutch Oven bread, inching forward to finally get my Mom's Breadsticks right... then taking a chance on a new sweet roll recipe... I have slowly built up my yeasty confidence. And now, I am sharing the breads of my labors with you! And I can tell you this from my experiences: it's really not as hard as it sounds. Really! All of the recipes I've named were first tries for me. Not things I have mastered over years. First tries! And they turned out darn well, huh??

So you can do it!! Find that recipe you've always wanted to try, but been wary of, and give it a shot. I did, and just made the most fabulous bread of my life. Only took me two (and a half...) tries to nail it :) I'd love to hear what you try!! Maybe this one??

Classic Challah Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Printable Recipe

3/4-1 cup lukewarm water
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
4 cups unbleached all-pupose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water

*For a spiralled challah, roll the dough into a 36" rope, and coil it into a lightly greased 9" cake pan. Allow it to rise till puffy, then bake as directed in the original recipe.

Combine all of the dough ingredients (starting with 3/4 cup of water) and mix, adding more water as needed till it comes together in a soft dough. (I added about another 1/8 cup) Knead (by hand, bread machine, or mixer) till the dough is soft and smooth. (5-8 minutes, depending on kneading method)
Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it's puffy and nearly doubled.
Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. (Not floured!! I tried floured first, silly me. You can't roll the dough out, for some reason, it just slides back and forth. I ended up spraying my counter with cooking spray)
Divide into thirds and roll into about 1 1/2 inch diameter snakes. Pinch ends together and braid. Pinch the other ends together and tuck both ends under.
Gently pick up the loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let it rise till it's very puffy, 1-1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water, and brush this glaze over the loaf. (Gently!!!)

Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will insulate the bread's bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the bread in the lower section of the oven, and bake it for 20-25 minutes.
*The extra pan is crucial!! See? I have proof!*
With pan...                         Without pan!

Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.
And, voila!! Let's just stop and admire for a few minutes.... Someone I know called me a wuss for only doing three strands...*cough mom cough* so maybe next time I'll try four! If you are fancy, I've heard of doing up to eight strands! Eek!
What a perfectly golden-brown crust. No wonder this seems to be a "special occasion" type of bread! It has just a touch of crunch...
But the best part is the inside. The softest, fluffiest bread I've ever made (I know I said that before, but they just keep getting softer and fluffier!)
A hint of honey in this eggy, buttery bread makes it lightly sweet, perfect for snacking on plain...
But I think I just might have to make French Toast with it!! Maybe even Eggnog French Toast!!
So! What previously feared projects will you be venturing out on??

Shared at Tutorials, Tips and Tidbits and Foodie Fridays


  1. You did a great job April! Your bread looks beautiful.

  2. *FYI- According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday late afternoon) and two holiday meals (one at night and lunch the following day) each begin with two complete loaves of bread.[4] This "double loaf" (in Hebrew: lechem mishneh) commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. The manna did not fall on Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion would fall the day before the holiday or sabbath.[5] Each single loaf is woven with six strands. Together, both loaves have twelve which represent each tribe of Israel.

    1. Ren, that's awesome! Love the historical background! Now April, you must try to braid with SIX strands!

    2. Wow, thanks!! I didn't know that... now I wish I HAD done 6! Next time :)

  3. I REALLY need to keep my hubby away from your blog. He's going to be expecting your amazing cooking from me and I just am NOT that good! :)

  4. gorgeous, April. Thanks for the visual on why to have two cookie sheets. That's cool. Now.. explain the half? (you said 2 1/2 batches)

    1. Oh, the first batch of dough was hopelessly dry. Never rose. I figured King Arthur Flour would be foolproof, right?? Nope. So I adjusted it next time. Second batch of bread was overdone (in the picture!)

  5. I am going to attempt altering a tried-and-true recipe... into hawaiian bread! I'm nervous about messing with it. I'm nervous about it having no real flavor. I'm nervous about it having too much flavor. I'm nervous about sweetening it so that the flavor comes out just right. I'm just nervous! But I will try it for Thanksgiving and I have some canned crescent rolls on hand in case it is a disaster!

    1. Oh, and your eggnog french toast sounds DELICIOUS and I hope you post a recipe for that! Anything eggnog is highly desired! I tried an eggnog cheesecake but you really didn't get any of the flavor. Maybe you can take that one on, too! I've considered reducing the eggnog down (like condensed milk) so that the flavor is more concentrated, but I'm scared of condensing, too!!

    2. You know, this would make awesome Hawaiian bread! But if you already have a recipe, I would say don't mess with the actual dough recipes. Most yeast breads work perfectly well in different forms. So just form rolls instead of a loaf (or whatever the original configuration is)

  6. Honestly, this is one of the most attractive homemade braided loaves I've seen. Bravo!

  7. My next recipe to try!!! (Posting about the soup on the blog tomorrow, by the way!) Do you think that I could substitute the vegetable oil for applesauce, maybe?

  8. April, that bread looks fabulous. Well done girlie!! I haven't made Challah in years. It's time I did! You have inspired me. Now if I could only manufacture a few extra hours in the day, I'd be all set!! Sending much love to you today and every day! xxoo


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