Braided Basic Challah Bread
Basic challah bread can be so easy to achieve at home! This easy three braid challah bread is super soft, slightly chewy and a little sweet. The presentation of challah bread is so beautiful and my video tutorial will show you exactly how to make it!
Bread making class was absolutely my favorite class in culinary school. Not just because it meant we got to eat ridiculous amounts of fresh bread everyday, but because I really am fascinated by the whole bread making process. It is incredible to me that such humble ingredients can transform into something so magnificent.
Thus far in my yeast bread series we have only worked with very simple recipes using only dry yeast. We haven’t ventured into the world of sponges, and starters, and wild yeast yet. I want to get to all of that eventually, but my hope with the beginning posts in this series was to make baking with yeast feel very simple to those who weren’t comfortable trying it. I have already heard from a few that they have tried their hand at making their very first rustic loaf and a whole mess of you made yeast rolls for the first time on Thanksgiving this year! This all makes me infinitely happy!
Today I want to talk to you about challah. I should warn you, I literally cannot say the word “challah” without yelling it out loud in my head like (or actually yelling it out) like “holla!!!” I just can’t. This bread makes me so excited. It is so fun to make and so delicious that I embarrassingly ate half of this entire loaf by myself while editing this. And this loaf is huge folks. Go ahead and make it then see if you want to judge me for how much I ate!
Let’s talk about challah bread for a moment. If you aren’t familiar with challah, it is a traditional Jewish bread made for sabbath and Jewish holidays. Challah is a very eggy, slightly sweet, very soft bread yet slightly chewy bread. The texture and flavor is divine, hence why I can eat my weight in it. Many traditional challah recipes use plain sugar for the sweetness in the bread, but I learned to make challah using honey and that is what I’ve done here because I absolutely love the flavor that it brings.
Probably the most iconic part of challah bread is the braiding. Challah experts can make very fancy braiding patterns using six, seven, eight, or even nine or more strands to braid their challahs. There are even braid maps to show you how to do these fancy braids. But today I wanted to show you a very simple three strand braid so that this bread felt approachable to someone who has never made it. Challah!!
Think of the three strand braid the way you would with a hair braid, if you’ve ever done that. You start with one of the outside strands, let’s say the right, and cross it over the center strand. Now that right hand strand has become the new middle. Now move to the left side and cross that strand over the new middle. The left strand has now become the new middle. Move back to the right side and cross over the new middle. And just repeat. Hopefully I’m explaining this clearly, or check out the video to watch me in action.
This recipe makes a very large loaf. You could definitely split the dough in half and make two loafs. OR you could also make two 3 braids and lay one loaf on top of the other. This will create the similar look to a loaf that was made with a six strand braid. The loaf will be very tall and will possibly have to cook a little longer.
Ok, so here is the thing about making the videos for you. I forget to take pictures during the process. I always set out with the intention of getting a few step-by-step shots while I’m shooting the video and I always forget. I’m going to try and get better about that. BUT, hopefully the video showing you the entire process is even better. I’m hearing a lot of positive feedback about the videos so I’m going to continue with them. They are so fun to make now that I’m getting my process down!
I hope you enjoy my challah tutorial and try your hand at making a loaf! Challah makes beautiful french toast if that does any more convincing you to try it? I’m working on some holiday recipes for the upcoming weeks so there may be a few less bread baking tutorials, but as always, I love hearing what kinds of recipes you are looking for! Please leave me a comment or shoot me an email, [email protected]!
For the Bread Dough
- 4 1/2 cups (19.1 oz, 536 gr) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- 1 package (o.25 oz, 7 grams, or 2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast (see note for substituting active dry yeast)
- 2 tsp (0.4 oz, 10 gr) kosher salt
- 2 TBSP (1 fl oz, 30 ml) canola oil
- 1 whole large egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (4 fl oz, 118 ml) honey
- 1 1/4 cup (10 fl oz, 296 ml) warm water, not hot
- 1 large egg
- 1 TBSP (0.5 fl oz, 15 ml) water
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large bowl if kneading by hand, combine the flour, instant yeast (*see note before starting if substituting active dry yeast), and salt. Stir together.
- Add to the bowl the canola oil, whole egg, egg yolks, honey, and the warm water. Stir all ingredients together.
- Using the dough hook on your stand mixer, knead the dough on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl if the dough is pooling too much at the bottom. You may also need to add about 1/4 cup flour (maybe more if it is a very humid day) to the bowl. Do this if the dough is still very wet after mixing a few minutes. The dough should be very sticky to the touch after kneaded for some time, but should be able to stick together as one elastic ball. Alternatively, you can knead this dough by hand. I find this dough is easiest to knead right in the bowl if doing it by hand as it is very sticky. Add small amounts of flour as needed.
- Add about 1 TBSP oil to a clean bowl and turn the kneaded dough into it. Turn the dough over to coat both sides with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean towel or loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- After the dough has risen, gently deflate the dough by pressing the air out of it gently with your fist. Turn the dough out onto an un-floured work surface and cut the dough into 3 equal pieces. Cover the pieces of dough and let them rest for 20 minutes. This relaxes the glutens and will make the dough much easier to roll out.
- Roll each piece of dough out into a long rope, about 18" long. This does not need to be an exact length, but the pieces need to be about the same length as each other. Longer pieces of dough will make a longer skinnier loaf, while shorter strands of dough will make a shorter and fatter loaf. Keep in mind the length of your sheet pan you are baking it on.
- Gently transfer the loaf to a parchment lined sheet pan and cover it with plastic wrap to rise for 1 more hour in a warm place.
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Whisk together 1 egg with 1 TBSP of water to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the risen loaf and bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes. You may need to tent a piece of foil over the loaf to prevent over browning. This particular loaf baked in 25 minutes and did not need to the foil, but fatter loafs may need a longer baking time.
If you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast you will need to hydrate the yeast in the warm water before adding it to the dough. Mix the warm water with the yeast and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Mix the other ingredients together, then add the water/yeast mixture in and continue mixing. The dough will likely take longer to proof. Wait for it to double in size before deflating and again after shaping the loaf before baking.