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I love to cook traditional Jewish food. It brings me back to my roots and reminds me of all the amazing women in my family. I come from a huge family, and we all love to cook, eat, and be together. Making challah was not something I learned from my grandmother or my mother. It was a project I took on myself many years ago (mostly I read the Bread Bible and worshipped Rose Levy Beranbaum) and it has been a mission of mine to perfect it and get the taste, texture and reliability of it just right. I love science. I am not a trained chef. Instead, I have a science background. I was taught to cook in the school of grandmother, tradition and hunger for good and healthy food. Challah and bread making, in general, has always been a passion of mine, probably because to get it just right, all the time is all about science. It is about the way the flour interacts with the water, yeast and temperature, the way the temperature in the room makes all the difference and the way the overall product tastes after it has risen just the right amount. Those of you who make bread know exactly what I’m talking about. Challah (known to some as egg bread) is a lot like a French brioche. It is sweet from the honey, velvety in texture, yellow in colour from the eggs and makes the best French Toast the next day. The incredible and tantalizing scent that will waft through your home when you make it will encourage you to make it over and over again. I feel bad for all the other loaves of bread out there; they can’t seem to compete with the aromas that this beauty produces. If you are nervous about making bread, and challah, in particular, don’t be. Follow the exact recipe and science behind it, and you will have success. Oh, and…get a scale – it’s essential!
These are the brands that I use.
If you want to watch some videos of each step, please visit my Instagram @deliciousdishcooking in Highlights.
The Perfect Challah Bread
For the Dough
- 4 tsp Instant yeast I like Fleischmann’s quick rise-instant yeast
- 2 pounds (about 7 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour plus more to sprinkle on the counter as you knead the dough
- ½ cup warm water (120ºF)
- 7 large eggs room temperature
- ½ cup Mazola corn oil
- ½ cup honey
- 1 tbsp kosher salt I use Diamond Crystal
For the Glaze
- One egg lightly beaten
- Sesame or poppy seeds or both
- A sprinkle of flaked sea salt Maldon Salt is best
Make the Sponge
- In a large bowl (I like clay), mix ⅔ of a cup of the measured flour with the yeast, add the warm water, whisk to mix and let this mixture rest covered with a towel or plastic wrap for about 10-15 minutes. It will puff up and become spongy looking. This is called a sponge.
Make the Dough
- Add the oil, eggs, honey, and salt; stir until well combined, the sponge will remain lumpy. I use a wooden spoon for this.Add the remaining flour; mix the dough in the bowl until the ingredients are combined, the dough will be very shaggy.
Knead the Dough
- Turn the dough out onto your work surface; knead until the dough is very smooth, about 2 minutes. The dough will feel very tough and difficult to knead. If it is soft and sticky add a little more flour until the dough is firm. Transfer the dough to a warm, clean, large bowl, cover with a towel over the top and place in a warm cozy area of your kitchen. See note at bottom.
- Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, it will take about 1½ – 2 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut your dough in 2 equal size pieces, for 2 loaves.
- Shape your dough (see dough shaping instructions @deliciousdishcooking ). Transfer the loaf to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece. Cover loosely with a towel, let rise again for 1¼ -2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF
- Brush the loaf with the beaten egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and the underside is dark brown. Let cool on a rack.
Note: If your kitchen is cold or you want to hurry things along, turn your oven on to 150˚F-200˚Ffor FIVE MINUTES, turn it off, turn the oven light on. This will create a warm environment for the bread to proof. You can let the dough and the braided loaf rise in this cozy environment. Some ovens have a proof feature, that will keep the oven at 100˚F, perfect temp for rising the dough and the braided loaves.