Makes 8 servings
1 ½ cups lukewarm water (about 110ºF), divided
1 packet active dry yeast (1 packet is equivalent to 2 ¼ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup honey
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
5–6 cups all purpose flour
For the Egg Wash
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon cold water
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ cup white sesame seeds
This special bread is a traditional Jewish cuisine made for ceremonial occasions such as Shabbat. Now more widely consumed, it has become a well-known braided style of enriched bread that is enjoyed more regularly by those within and outside of the Jewish faith. While there are many variations of challah, this recipe uses a simple set of ingredients and directions.
1. Pour ¼ cup of the water (about 110ºF) into a large mixing bowl. Add the packet of active dry yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar to the bowl and stir gently to combine. Wait 7–10 minutes or until the yeast is activated. The yeast should look bubbly and foamy on the top of the water.
2. Add the remaining 1 ¼ cup of lukewarm water to the bowl. Mix in the egg, egg yolks, honey, oil, and salt using a whisk. Make sure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed together.
3. Begin adding the flour to the bowl a half cup at a time, stirring with a large wooden spoon. Make sure the flour is well mixed into the dough before adding more. When the mixture becomes too thick to stir with a spoon, begin to knead with your hands.
4. Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and not sticky. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies. Do not add too much flour or the dough will become too tough.
5. Once the dough has reached its optimal consistency, remove the dough from the mixing bowl and set aside. Wash and dry the bowl before greasing with a light coat of oil. Place the dough back into the bowl and rotate or flip the dough over so that all of the dough is covered in a light coating of oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm environment. Allow the dough to rise until it’s puffy and has doubled in size, about 2–3 hours. When baking yeasted breads, rising times are just guidelines. The temperature, humidity, and how you kneaded the dough will all impact the rising time.
6. Gently punch down the risen dough in the center and turn out onto a well-floured surface.
– If you are marking two regular sized challah loaves, cut in half and knead each piece for about five minutes, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky. Divide each half into thirds and roll these pieces into long snakes, about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and braid from middle. Either leave as braid or form into a round braided loaf by bringing ends together, curving the braid into a circle, and pinch ends together. Grease two baking trays and place the finished braid or round on each. Cover with a towel and let rise for another hour.
– If you are making one large challah loaf, cut the dough into four even pieces. Stretch and roll each piece into about a 20-inch long rope. Place the ropes parallel to each other vertically on a floured surface. Pinch the top ends together tightly and fan out the bottoms of the ropes. Take the rope farthest to the right and weave it to the left side through the other ropes using the over, under, over pattern. Repeat this pattern, always starting with the rope farthest to the right, until the whole loaf is braided. Tuck the ends under the pleated loaf. Grease a baking tray and place the finished braid on each. Cover with a towel and let rise for another hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
8. Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg, salt and water till smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the mixture onto the visible surface of your challah. Add sesame seeds by sprinkling them onto the damp dough.
9. Bake for 30–35 minutes, until the crust is a golden brown color and the internal temperature is between 190º–200°F on an instant-read thermometer. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf—if it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Let the challah cool on a wire rack before serving.
Makes one large challah or two regular challahs