How To Make Challah

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You know what they say: practice makes perfect. That’s why when it comes to making challah, my sister in law is by far the expert. She makes fresh challah from scratch every week for Shabbat (the Friday night Sabbath) so she’s certainly had her share of experience. With her recipe for a sweet and perfectly fluffy challah dough, she showed me six different braiding techniques for making challahs and challah rolls. Now you can learn them too, after the jump!

What is Challah?

Growing up in a Jewish home, attending a Jewish day school, I’ve had a lot of experience with challah, the fluffy braided bread eaten at the Sabbath dinner and lunch tables each week. I would have told you challah was an eggy bread, fluffy and sometimes sweet in nature. I would have told you that challah was delicious dipped in the red wine also consumed at Sabbath dinner tables and that it was hard to keep room in my stomach for the rest of the meal when fresh  challah was around.

But until my first experience making challah with my sister in law last week, I never knew that this isn’t actually what the word “challah” means.

As my sister in law taught me, the word challah means “remove” and refers to taking a pinch of dough from your bread’s dough  each week and setting it aside for religious purposes. To explain, the purpose of eating challah every week is to commemorate the manna G-d gave the Jews  while they wandered in the desert for 40 years. This manna represents sustenance and in order to give thanks and remember this gift, we are supposed to take a piece from our own dough each week. This article from Aish.com has an even better explanation.

Now that you know the basics of  what challah is all about,  let’s make some!

The Dough

wetingredients

Start by filling your bread pan with the wet ingredients: water, oil and 5 egg yolks (note the egg yolk separator – we don’t want any egg whites!)

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Next add the rest of your ingredients (namely the dry ones). Here we have two kinds of flour (all purpose and whole wheat), brown sugar, salt and yeast.

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Put your loaf pan into your bread machine if applicable.

breadmachine

Now set your bread machine to dough cycle. My brother and sister in law have a Breadman Ultimate machine that has a dough cycle that takes 1 1/2 hours.

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When the bread machine (or your own hands) has/have finished its magic, the dough should look like this.

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Remove the dough onto a floured surface…

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Now it’s time to decide how many challahs you plan on making. Cut the dough into sections, 1 for each challah. Next, you’re ready to braid!

The Braiding

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My sister in law is what I like to call “the braiding master.” If you look at the photo above, she doesn’t even have to look at her hands to turn out a perfectly braided challah. Here she is doing just one of the three challah braiding techniques she showed me in addition to little challah rolls.

challahroll

Take a small section of dough and make a knot. You’ve just made a challah roll!

threebraidgraphic

The three braid is probably the most common challah braiding technique I have seen. I went to a Jewish day school when I was younger and we made mini challahs with this method and just about every challah I eat is a three braid. They tend to be longer and narrower, and are comprised of one single braid made with three sections of dough. And sure, it seems easy but before you start, my sister in law has a little trick for you! Don’t start at the end. Begin your braid in the middle so that the end result challah is even at both ends and thicker in the middle. If you start at one end, the dough size will taper off creating an uneven challah. Take her advice – she knows what she’s doing!

fourbraidtechnique

Here’s where things get a little complicated (at least for an amateur like me). This time, cut your dough into four sections and connect them at the end. Start your braid as you would a three braid by taking one piece and crossing over the piece to its immediate right. Then, thread that same piece under the next piece and lay it atop the last piece (see top photo in the graphic above). Continue this method for the rest of the challah and pinch the other ends together to connect the sections.

sixbraidtechnique

I’ll be honest: I had no idea six braided challahs even existed! What’s next – an eight braid?  Well not quite, but here are some instructions on how to complete a six braided challah: Take the left-most piece and cross it over two pieces, thread it under the next piece and then cross it over the last two. Repeat until you have completed your challah and pinch at the ends to keep the sections together. In my opinion, this requires skill. Now we’re ready for baking! Well almost…

The Baking

Actually, before we set these beauties in the oven we have two steps we need to finish. First, cover the braided challahs with aluminum foil and set them out for 30 minutes to let the dough rise again.

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Once they have grown to your desired size, beat 1 egg in a glass to make an egg wash. Take a brush and cover each challah with a layer of egg wash. This will make the challah come out shiny and glossy when it’s done baking.

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And into the oven we go! The challah and challah rolls have different baking times but since they’re baking at the same temperature, they can go into the oven at the same time. At 350 degrees, bake challahs for 18-20 minutes, and rolls for 12-15 minutes.

challah

They come out golden, fluffy and delicious! Trust me, I’ve had samples. The whole wheat flour and the brown sugar add some depth to this challah’s flavor. It’s definitely worth trying  – my sister in law makes it look so easy and hopefully this blog post does too!

The Recipe

Half Whole Wheat Challah

This challah bread recipe comes out sweet and fluffy every time!

Ingredients

1 1/2 C. water
1/3 C. canola oil
5 egg yolks
2 C. whole wheat flour
2 1/4 C. unbleached flour
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. (bread machine) yeast

1 additional egg, beaten for egg wash

Directions

Place wet ingredients (water, oil, and egg yolks) in bread machine pan. Add the rest of the ingredients over the top. Run the dough cycle on your bread machine.

Remove a small piece of the challah dough (the word challah means to remove) and set aside (give this away to someone else as a challah starter if desired). Divide the rest of the dough into 3 or 4 pieces, and then divide each piece to braid. Cover loosely and let rise for 30 minutes. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees. For rolls, bake 12-15 minutes.

More Challah/Bread Recipes:
Bistro Challah Bread
Whole Wheat Bread
Challah (Braided Bread)

More Yummy Recipes From My Sister in Law:
Cold Strawberry Soup
The Best Pancakes Ever
Steel Cut Oatmeal

I would like to submit this post to Yeastspotting on Wild Yeast blog!

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  • http://simplyscrumptiousfoodie.com Jessie

    I’ve heard of challah but never knew that it was an eggy/sweet type bread. Next time I see a loaf of challah, I’m definitely buying it!

  • http://www.shelbymaelawstories.blogspot.com HoneyB

    Great post! You make me want to try this myself!

  • http://www.huggingthecoast.com Hugging the Coast

    My wife grew up eating challah almost every week, so we’re big challah fans here. Such eggy deliciousness!

  • Josh

    Those challahs look great! I like the photo combos that demonstrate the braiding techniques.

  • http://almostbourdain.blogspot.com Ellie

    Great post. thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • Beth

    Great article! I want to try making challah now!

  • http://www.wildyeastblog.com/ Susan/Wild Yeast

    What a wonderful challah tutorial. That photo of her braiding without looking — I’m envious of anyone who can do that!

  • http://www.hefe-und-mehr.de Stefanie

    A nice challah tutorial. I am in love with braided breads! I will try your recipe soon!

  • http://na Carol Broihahn

    Dear Sister-in-law:

    Thanks for the how-to on Challah, but what if you don’t own a bread machine. Please advise.

    Blessings,
    Carol B.

  • LouiseLouise

    Tho not jewish i have always loved challah now i can make it at will. It is great when making french toast too

  • http://leahsleavenedbread.blogspot.com Leah

    what great looking challah! im so happy you came to my blog and brought me to yours. im going to have to try this recipe out.

    Leah

  • http://food.laurieashton.com Laurie Ashton Farook

    Fantastic looking challah! I’ve now made two whole challahs – the latest this afternoon – and the concept of braiding bread… Well, let’s just say it wasn’t something I’d ever done before. :D Your sister in law does make it look so easy. :)

  • Sandi Travlos

    I tried using your recipe, but I must have done something wrong….I did not have wheat flour so I did 4.25C of Bread flour for bread machines…. the recipe does not say how much it makes, so I assume it all depends on how big you want it…my machine does go up to 3lbs…. I put in all the ingredients & set it for dough….unfortunately it did not come out like your pic…it was much bigger!!!…but also sticky…on another website they said to punch down the dough to take out the air…so I did then I cut it into 3 pieces… I took one piece & cut it into 4 pieces for braiding (to make it wider?)then covered the braided bread for 1/2 hr…but baked it for 35 mins…it looks great (though I haven’t tried it yet)…on the other site it said that it is ready when you are able to tap on it & hear that it is hollow? Mine is too soft to tap… am I doing something wrong? TY

  • http://ginamoney.com Gina

    Looking for a challah recipe for my breadman (my son’s school does Sabbat every Friday) How much would you say this makes? Looks like a two pound loaf. Thanks for this milk-free recipe!

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