Challah Recipe

Challah bread is one of the most visually stunning things you can create using a few cups of flour, some yeast, eggs, and other super basic ingredients. How does a bread become so handsome? Let's be honest here, says chef and food writer Maren Epstein of Eating Works: "This recipe is pretty tricky. [And] it's a lot of work." But it's time and effort well spent, because "the final product is always a crowd stopper" and the bread tastes as good as it looks.

This traditional Jewish bread is mildly sweet, seriously delicious, and pretty hard to stop eating once you start, so consider making two or three loaves at a time, especially if you'll be serving it to a large family gathering, which is really what challah is all about, anyway.

Looking for the best ways to serve challah bread? Epstein says: "Challah pairs well with garlic compound butter," (and you can find her recipe for making said butter elsewhere on Mashed) Epstein said. "I love toasting it in the oven and serving it with a side of butter as a starter." So yeah, bread so good it's a starter dish, not a side. It's well worth the work, in other words.

Gather your challah bread ingredients

Remember how we said this stuff gets gobbled up fast? Well this recipe makes two loaves, FYI, so you're off to a good start. You can always halve it, but for two loaves, you'll need a stick of butter, melted, 3 egg yolks, 3 whole eggs, 1 tablespoon of yeast, a ½ cup of honey, 2 and a ½ cups of warm water (110 degrees, ideally), a ½ teaspoon of salt, and 10 cups of all-purpose flour.

A two-part yeast mistake Epstein says to avoid: "Not making the water warm enough too activate the yeast. You can also make the water too hot and kill the yeast." And without properly activated yeast, you might be about to do a lot of work for nothing.

Start your yeast and then make your challah dough

In a large bowl combine the melted butter, the eggs (not the yolks, just the whole eggs), the yeast, honey, water, and salt, and stir gently to combine everything. Set the bowl aside in a warm spot and allow the yeast to proof in for ten minutes.

Once the yeast has begun to fizz, start adding sifted flour to the bowl one cup at a time and mix the ingredients together with a spoon. Keep adding flour and a dough will start to form. Once all the flour is added, mix a few more times.

Time for some serious kneading, then some waiting

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and then knead the dough for ten minutes, or until the dough is even and smooth throughout. Place the dough back into a clean bowl and cover it with olive oil, and then drape a wet towel over the top of the bowl. 

Place the dough back somewhere warm and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size, which will take about 45 minutes. You'll know it is done once you can put your finger into the dough and the hole doesn't fill. Now press down the corners of the dough to squeeze the gas out, flip it over in the bowl, and repeat the proofing process once more, letting it sit, then pressing the gas out.

Form the challah loaf shape

Remove the dough from the bowl and slice it in half. Each half will make one loaf. Now roll out the dough into long, thin strands, each a bit less than an inch across. You should have at least three strands of dough for each loaf, but can make even more strands (which will be a bit thinner) that can weave into an even more intricate pattern as you master the technique. 

Braid the strands together to form a loaf, then repeat with the other half of the dough. You can try weaving each loaf differently if you want to practice, by the way! Place each braided loaf onto a parchment-lined baking tray and cover the dough with a wet towel then let it sit for about ten minutes.

Bake the challah bread

Place the dough in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the dough turns golden. Overbaking bread is a common mistake, so keep a close eye on it. Epstein says: "You can easily burn the bread. Make sure to always check the bottom of the bread to make sure that it doesn't turn dark brown."

While the bread is baking, whisk the yolks together to make an egg wash. Once the 45 minutes have passed (or the bread is golden), remove the loaves from the oven and brush them with the egg wash. Return the challah to the oven for another five minutes.

Once you can lift the loaf and it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom it is done. It will look sublime ... and taste that way, too.

Challah Recipe
5 from 30 ratings
Few breads can rival the appearance of a beautifully braided loaf of challah bread. Master this Jewish recipe and a delicious loaf of bread is your reward.
Prep Time
3
hours
Cook Time
45
minutes
Servings
2
loaves
slicing into fresh challah bread
Total time: 3.75 hours
Ingredients
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 ½ cups warm water (110 degrees)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 cups flour
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, eggs, yeast, honey, water, and salt. Allow the yeast to proof in a warm spot for 10 minutes.
  2. Once the yeast has begun to fizz, start adding sifted flour to the bowl one cup at a time and mix with a spoon. Keep adding flour until a dough starts to form.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Place the dough back into a clean bowl, cover it with olive oil and drape a wet towel over the top of the bowl. Place it somewhere warm and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size or for 45 minutes. You'll know it's done once you can put your finger into the dough and the hole doesn't fill.
  4. Press down the corners of the dough to squeeze the gas out. Flip it over and repeat the proofing process once more.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and slice it in half. Each half will make a single loaf. Roll out each dough ball into strands (3 at least per loaf) and braid them to form loaves.
  6. Place braided loaves onto a parchment lined baking tray and cover with a wet towel for 10 minutes.
  7. Place in the oven for 45 minutes or until the dough turns golden. While the dough bakes, whisk yolks to make egg wash.
  8. Remove from the oven and cover the loafs in an egg wash. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
  9. Once you can lift the loaf and it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom, it is done.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 346
Total Fat 7.1 g
Saturated Fat 3.8 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 64.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 61.2 g
Dietary Fiber 2.1 g
Total Sugars 8.0 g
Sodium 80.0 mg
Protein 8.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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