If you are looking for a star of the table bread that is not only pretty but also delicious, you got to try Challah Bread. This bread is hands down absolutely gorgeous, amazing texture and the best thing about this, they make great French toast! That is, if you ended up having a leftover, goodluck! 🙂
What is Challah Bread?
Challah is a special bread usually braided and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Shabbat and major Jewish holidays. Three, four or six strands braid are most common. Three braids symbolize truth, peace, and justice. Traditional Challah Bread do not contain any dairy nor meat. Now a days, there are several variations of Challah Bread and a lot of them uses dairy.
About This Recipe
We already know that this bread is drop dead beautiful, but don’t be fooled by the looks of it. Yes it is attractive, but it is not as difficult as it looks. It is just like making any other kind of bread. The difference of Challah Bread with other bread is not in the process, but in the ingredients. Challah Bread uses more egg and it uses honey to sweeten it. You can of course use regular sugar but the honey produces a moist soft bread. I usually use only 1 egg when making my bread but for this one I used extra egg yolk . I did a simple 3 braid, I find 4 or 6 is quite complicated and so I kept it simple and easy. If you know how to do a 4 or 6 braid, feel dress to do so. If you don’t, do as I did and stick to 3 braid, it is beautiful as it is.
The ingredient are simple and easy to find. Except for honey, all the ingredients are the basic ingredients you would use in making bread. Most of the tine I use regular white sugar as sweetener, for this bread, I opened to go for honey like most recipe do. If you use granulated sugar, you might need to adjust the amount of flour because sugar is dry while honey is wet. This means the texture of the bread will be different, you might end up using a bit less flour. I suggest using 1/4 cup less to start and just gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup as needed.
I’ve never tried making the bread dough in advance and leaving it in the refrigerator. I would suggest making this the day you want to serve it. Leftover can be left on a bread container at room temperature for 3 days after that I recommend storing it in the refrigerator. Whenever there is egg in the recipe, I like to keep it up to 3 days max outside depending on what the recipe is and the temperature in the room. Don’t worry, the longer it stays in the fridge, the better it will be for use in making French toast l.
Challah Bread is Perfect for French Toast
On its own, Challah Bread is delicious. They are great for breakfast, lunch or dinner bread. They go well with pasta, soup or salad, but more than that, this bread is perfect for French toast. Because it is a rich dough with more than the usual amount of egg and honey as sweetener, the bread brown and crisp up nicely when toasted. Even if you just spread butter in this bread and toast it in the pan, you will see how beautiful brown it turns. Look at this photo below. That’s just with plain butter, and it will take only few minutes to get to that stage. Now the French toast, it’s delicious. You can make a fruit based French toast,l with fruits chunks and jam, whipped cream or chocolate spread drizzle on top. Seriously, I don’t know where to begin. I had to try them all. Good thing this bread is large enough to make different variation of French toast. So give it a try. Make this bread just for use for making French toast, you will not regret it. One tip I will give is do not use the first day you make it. Wait at least 2 day or even 3 to get it a bit drier. French toast is made best with day/s old bread because it will not be as soggy when dipped with the custard mixture.
How to Make Braided Challah Bread
Let me give you a quick summary on how you are going to tackle this. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult at all. You can even make this without using a bread machine or stand mixer.
- First thing first, activate the yeast for about 10 minutes to get the yeast activated. I added it in warm water (110F) and added sugar in it. Temperature is very important in activating the yeast, make it too hot or cold and the yeast will not activate properly. If you do not have a kitchen thermometer, microwave the tap water for about 15 – 20 seconds, that should do the trick. If you are using a water from refrigerator make it about 25 seconds and then just touch it to make sure its not too hot or cold.
- Second, add the wet ingredients one at a time, including the beaten egg.
- Third, add the dry ingredients in 2 batches, you can divide it in half it doesn’t have to be exact. You need to add it in 2 batches so that it is easier to mix. Knead the dough just until it becomes elastic. The dough will be slightly sticky, but you should have a clean bowl after kneading and mixing it. Clean bowl means that you are on the track for the consistency of the dough. If your dough gets too sticky, add 1 tbsp of flour at a time until you get a clean bowl and the dough forms. But don’t over do it as adding too much flour can make the bread heavy and dense. Final dough should be slightly sticky but manageable and shapeable. The dough is done, Congratulations!
- First Rest Period: Transfer in a greased bowl and cover and let it sit for 60 minutes in warm place.
- Shape: Take the dough out from the bowl and divide it into 3 portions. Use a kitchen weighing scale if you have one. Shape each portion into a 12 – 14-inch rope and braid it together. Transfer in a parchment lined baking tray.
- Second Rest Period: Cover and let rest for another 1 hour in a warm place
- Brush with Egg wash: Brush the top with egg wash (1 beaten 1 + teaspoon water). If you want to sprinkle seeds on top, this is the time to do it. I made this plain for a more traditional look but toppings are great added on top as well.
- Bake Bake in preheated 350F oven about 20 minutes or until until top is golden brown,
ENJOY and don’t forget to share an make your friends beg for more 🙂
Tips for a Successful Soft Homemade Bread
- Check Yeast Expiry a Date – you might be wondering how come the bread did not rise when you followed exactly the recipe. Well, first thing first, make sure the yeast is not yet expired.
- Liquid Temperature – Yeast grows in temperature between 105 – 110F, so it is important to have the water that you are using to “proof” it in this range. If you go lower or higher, the yeast might not proof properly. That means the bread will not rise as much, resulting to a flat and tough bread. If you do not have kitchen thermometer, microwave the water (from the faucet) about 15 – 20 seconds. Feel it with your fingers, it sound be lukewarm not hot.
- Amount of Yeast – Just because you want a tall fully bread doesn’t mean you have to put as much yeast in the mixture. Sometimes if you add too much, it will have a tendency to collapse. Just imagine putting more air than what is needed in a balloon, the balloon will explode. The same case with bread.
- Right Type of Yeast – We’ve discussed the 3 types of yeast above. Make sure to use the right one for your recipe, and make necessary adjustments if you want to swap one from another.
- Flour Measurement is not exact all the time, but with only minimal difference. Sometimes it could be plus 2 – 4 tbsp more, this is why I always set aside about 1/4 cup in case I need to add more. If you measure the liquid properly, and still the dough turn out dry, then it could be that the flour moisture is either dryer than usual. Dry flour requires more liquid, and lighter flour requires less liquid. This could depend on the brand of the flour and the age of the flour, and of course flour could vary from country to country. The nearer the flour gets to expiry date, the more that it gets dryer. If you are like me who doesn’t monitor the expiry date, then you just have to feel the dough if it needs additional flour. You want it to be still soft and moist but not too sticky. Moist but enough to form the dough into a ball. My test is a bowl with clean side, while the dough still slightly stick at the bottom. This gives a soft dough.
- Rest Period – Yeast bread needs time to rise. There are bread that uses less yeast but requires more rest time, the likes of No Knead Bread or Artisan Bread which usually require 8- 16 hours rest period to get the volume and to develop the flavor. There are 1 hour bread like my Rosemary Dinner Rolls which used this same bread dough. Resting the dough is imperative to allow the gluten to relax and to allow the dough to rise. A well rested dough will rise better, will created pockets or air, and will make a light and soft bread. Remember, 2 rest period. First at least 1 hour and another 1 hour for the second rest period. It’s worth the wait, promise.
Why is My Dough Too Wet or Too Dry?
Don’t get frustrated if your dough did not turn out immediately as what you see in the photo or video. Most likely It is not because you did not follow the recipe. When it comes to bread making, the amount of flour and liquid is not always 100% precise. This is way often times you will encounter recipes that says, if your dough is dry, add a bit more liquid. If your dough is too wet, add a little bit more flour. This instructions are not meant to confuse you, they are meant to guide you on how to adjust as you work through your dough. The reason for this is that although the measurement of water and flour are specified in the recipe, it still could slightly vary depending on many factors. One key thing that could affect the texture is how you measure the ingredients. measuring by weight is the best way to do it, butt the spoon and level technique comes as close to measuring by weight although not 100% exact. Scooping the flour directly often ended up with a bit more than required. Also, all-purpose flour could very from country to country, or even from brand to brand. Don’t be surprise if you find that some brand tends to require a bit more liquid as the others. On top of this, the amount of liquid is also affected by the state of your flour. How old is the flour that you are using? Older flour nearing expiry tends to be drier and this requires more liquid. Bread making requires patience, and practice. Once you learn how to feel the right texture of the dough, everything will be quick and easy. You can instantly tell if you need to add more water or flour to get the dough in right state.
- 1 1/4 teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
- 68 grams/ 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoon warm Water (110F)
- 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
- 42 grams/ 3 tablespoon Honey
- 35 grams/ 2 Egg Yolks
- 55 grams/ 1/4 cup flavorless Oil
- 4 grams/1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 180 grams/1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 Egg – beaten
- 1 tsp Water or Milk
- Activate Yeast: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer whisk together yeast with water and 1/2 tsp of the granulated sugar. Rest 10 minutes until mixture is foamy.
- Add Wet Ingredients: Set mixer with paddle attachment and mix in egg, oil and honey on low-speed.
- Add Dry Ingredients: Add the flour and salt. Mix on medium low-speed (KitchenAid Setting 2) until combined, then switch to a hook attachment. Allow mixture to knead on medium-low speed until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. If the dough is too sticky add 1 tbsp of flour at a time (but not more than 1/4 cup) until the dough starts to form. The dough should be slightly sticky, smooth and elastic. If too much flour is added the bread will be dense and heavy. A good measure of correct texture is a clean mixing bowl, while the dough still slightly sticking at the bottom.
- First Rest Period, 60 Minutes: Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Transfer into a greased bowl (use oil spray or drizzle bowl with oil then wipe with your fingers to coat the inside of the bowl). Roll the dough inside the bowl to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or warm towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes in a warm place.
- To help the dough rise better, store it inside the oven which had been pre-heated to 110F. Once it reached the 110F, turn OFF the oven. DO NOT forget to turn it OFF, you only want the oven to warm up for the dough to rise, you do not want to dough to be baked. Some oven has a proofing setting, mine doesn’t, so this is my trick.
- Shape: Remove from the bowl and lightly push the dough down with the heel of the palm of your hands to knockout the air. At this stage, the dough should at least double in size. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and roll each portion into a log about 12 inch long. Braid the dough and tuck the end under to hold it together.
- Second Rest Period, 60 Minutes: Transfer the braided dough in a baking sheet and let sit in a warm area for 1 hour, no need to cover. Use the same trick in step 4.
- Preheat oven to 350F during last 10 minutes of dough rising. If using the trick in step 4, make sure to remove the bread from the oven before pre-heating it to 350F.
- Egg Wash: Gently brush top of loaf with egg wash by combining 1 tsp of milk/water and 1 beaten egg. Be gentle as not to poke the bread, you want the air bubbles that formed inside during the rest period to remain.
- Toppings: Sprinkle top with sesame seed and poppy seed. Alternatively, you can also skip the topping or use other topping of your choice.
- Bake: Bake in preheated 350F oven until top is golden brown, about 30 – 35 minutes. Serve warm, reheat before serving as necessary.
Make the Bread Without Stand Mixer
This bread can be made without stand mixer although it require a little bit more effort but it is doable. Instead of a stand mixer, simply use a large mixing bowl to mix the dough. Here’s how you do it
- Activate the yeast, same as step 1 above.
- Simply mix the wet and dry ingredients in a large bowl until it forms into a ball. Same as steps 2 & 3 only you are doing it in a large mixing bowl.
- Transfer in a floured surface and continue kneading until the dough becomes smooth, soft and elastic. Take your time, about 8 minutes or so.
- Proceed to steps 4 – 10
Makes 1 9-inch Loaf Bread
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