Bake it Yourself: Challah Bread

4 Mar

Challah Bread Loaf

Challah is a gorgeous traditional Jewish bread, braided with a dark, golden brown color that is rich with a hint of honey sweetness. It can be topped with sesame or poppy seeds, eaten on its own, and is my absolute favorite kind of bread to use in french toast! It takes a bit of time and maybe some practice, but there’s nothing like the satisfaction of baking your own bread at home. (And the smell of it in the oven, divine!) I’ve adapted the recipe for the home from the On Baking textbook I’m using at school, and have tried to make it as easy as possible. Of course if any clarifications are needed, please let me know!

Challah Bread
Yields: 2 braided loaves

2 packets Active dry yeast
1 cup scant 2 tbsp water @ 90 degrees F
6 tbsp honey
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tbsp salt
Egg wash
Sesame seeds (optional)

*You will need a thermometer, important when working with yeast and making bread! A scale would be real useful also.*


Challah Bread IngredientsMeasure out all your ingredients in separate containers.

Challah Water TempHeat the water up in your microwave, about 15 seconds. Using your thermometer, check that the water is at 90 degrees. This is important, if the water is not warm enough, the yeast won’t activate, but if it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast!

Challah Yeast and HoneyDissolve the yeast in 4 tablespoons of the water. Allow it to sit for a minute before stirring to fully dissolve. Afterwards, stir in the honey.

Dough HookPut remaining water, butter, eggs, one cup of the flour and the salt in a stand mixer fitted with the dough attachment. Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until smooth.

Flour into Challah MixKnead the dough on medium speed, adding the remaining flour a little bit at a time. You’re going to have to scrape down the bowl a couple of times also. Knead until smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes. If you’ve never made bread before, the dough is going to come together and wrap all up and around the hook, which is totally fine!

Challah Ball of DoughPull the dough off the hook and out of the mixer bowl into a lightly greased bowl. I just use Pam and do a quick spray. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 1 – 1 1/2 hours to ferment until the dough doubles in size.

Dough After FermentationLike so. It’s crazy how much the dough rises!

Punching Down DoughUsing your (clean) hands and fingertips, punch down the dough. This is going to make it deflate so you can work with it, but it’s okay, it will rise again in the proofing stage.

Portioning Challah DoughOn a lightly floured surface, divide your dough into two equal portions. Here is where a scale would come in handy so you can weigh the dough out to the exact amount. It’s important that it’s equal portions so the bread bakes evenly, so I’d suggest weighing the dough out if you can. Also – don’t tear the dough with your hands, you will tear the gluten that way. Use a knife to portion it or a dough scraper like I’m using here.

Scaling DoughDivide your two equal portions of dough into 3 more equal portions each, so you end up with 6 equal portions of dough in total.

Kneading Challah Dough 1Take one portion of dough and stretch it back onto itself a few times until smooth.

Kneading Challah Dough 2Take the same portion and hit it with the sides of your hands, moving the dough around in a circular motion, so that you are tucking the bottom underneath. It’s like a karate chop. Do this until you get a smooth ball.

Rolling Dough with HandsTake the ball and roll it under your hands from the middle out, until you get a long log. Repeat the previous two steps and this one with the remaining 5 portions.

Assembling Challah LoafTake three of the logs, lie them next to each other and pinch the tops together. Then braid the dough just like you would braid hair, be sure to do a nice tight braid.

Braided Challah LoafTuck the ends underneath the braided loaf and place in a parchment lined pan. Do the same for the other loaf and you can put them both on the same large pan if you have one. I happened to lend my big pan to someone so I had to use two different ones. Time for proofing!

At-Home Dough ProofingAt school we have what is called a proof box, which just steams the dough so that it rises again. Proofing is like a second fermentation. For us home bakers, we have this little makeshift proofing method: Put your pan in the oven (turned off) and place another pan on a rack right underneath that. Fill the second pan 3/4 of the way with boiling water and close the oven door. Proof, leave it in there, for 45 minutes, until the loaves double in size.

Brushing Egg Wash on Challah LoafWhen done, take all pans out of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush your loaves with an egg wash before baking – this is also where you would sprinkle on the sesame seeds if you’re using them. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the loaves are a dark, golden brown.

Challah BreadsIn time you will have these beautiful Challah bread loaves!

Lots of steps, but, believe me, it’s totally worth it for your own home-made bread. Try it out! 🙂

Love & Sweets,

18 Responses to “Bake it Yourself: Challah Bread”

  1. Chef Randall March 4, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    Melissa this is great. Made me think of my grandmother as she was born Jewish though she converted to Christian. Something else Melissa, that is funny: the 10th image down of your weight and table top cover…I have exactly the same thing. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

    Chef Randall

    • Melissa (Just Enough Sugar) March 5, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      That is my mother’s table top cover, guess it’s popular! And thank you, I enjoy a good Challah bread and thought it a somewhat easier route to go for my first bread tutorial. 🙂

  2. Suzanne March 4, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Nice!! I too love Challah, I have baked all types of bread but for some reason I have been intimidated by Challah, maybe it’s the braiding I don’t know but your excellent tutorial simplified the process. You inspired me to give it a try.

    • Melissa (Just Enough Sugar) March 5, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      It’s really not that hard! But perhaps I should further explain how to actually braid the dough? In case anyone is not sure. Hmm, let me know if that would be helpful and/or if you do try it out!

  3. myninjanaan March 4, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    What a lovely loaf of bread! I’ve been wanting to make Challah for the longest time, but I think it’s the braiding that always scared me. You’ve motivated me to give a shot!

    • Melissa (Just Enough Sugar) March 5, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      If you’d like me to make a post on how to braid the dough please let me know! I’d never want anyone to shy away from making such a delicious bread because of that! I’m thinking I probably should.

  4. The Vagabond Baker March 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Oh, I love Challah bread, nice treat when we’re down in London from the Jewish bakeries. I must try it xxx

  5. vinoinlove March 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Challah bread is so good. I have never baked it yet but I will try to do it sometimes. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Melissa (Just Enough Sugar) March 8, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      Of course! I feel so accomplished after making my own bread at home, a bit more methodical, but satisfying 🙂

  6. Jacinta March 10, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    Looks good! I love to watch dough rise – it is BEAUTIFUL. 🙂

  7. laurasmess March 26, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing this tutorial Melissa! I’ve always been a hopeless bread baker, but through persistence I’ve been starting to really firm up some basic techniques over the past few months. I’m getting better at Sourdough but the idea of baking home made Challah is so exciting! I’ll definitely give your method a go. Thanks for sharing, and I love your blog! x

    • Melissa (Just Enough Sugar) April 1, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Bread is challenging but like you said it just takes persistence. And patience. Lots of practice and you’ll get the hang of it! I still have to perfect my skills, but I’m glad that my tutorial will be of use to you! Thanks so much 🙂

  8. Urban Bakes May 14, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    This looks amazing and I love how you put step by step instructions for this bread!

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