Challah has long been one of my favorite breads. I first tried it after baking a loaf with a good friend several years ago. It was soft, springy, eggy, tender, and sweet.
This loaf is from Kamren Siddiqui’s Hand Made Baking. It’s a little less sweet, and a little more sturdy than your typical loaf of challah. It’s wonderful served plain with butter, but you can also toast it up and top it with an avocado or fried egg.
My current favorite topping is nutella. Can we talk about how freakin’ adorable these mini nutella cups are?
Also, can we talk about how delightful Kamren’s writing is? I read his book cover-to-cover for the recipe descriptions and stories alone. Kamren effortlessly links food to memories, stories and emotions. You can read some of his writing on his blog, Sophisticated Gourmet. He’s a skilled baker, but he also has a knack for compelling storytelling. Go check it out.
On to the challah!
Good challah begins with eggs.
Well, actually, it begins with warm water, yeast, sugar, oil and honey. Whisk these together, then add the eggs.
This is how I cook now, iPhone in one hand, measuring cup in the other. It’s always good to double check your recipe.
Add all-purpose flour.
And stir it all together with a wooden spoon, until the dough comes together.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface with your hands until it looks something like this. The dough will be sticky. That’s okay. Let it rise for an hour, or until doubled.
Divide up your dough, roll it into strands, and braid. I love a four-strand braid for challah, but I gave up and went for three after getting impossibly confused. Kamren’s recipe calls for a three-strand braid connected at the ends, to form a round loaf.
Let your loaf rise and double. (I didn’t take a picture of this step. In fact, I missed photographs of a bunch of steps.)
Brush with a beaten whole egg, and bake until the loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped.
It took me so long — so many loaves! — to figure out when bread was 100% done. The tapping and listening method is best, but it takes time to learn what a done loaf sounds like. I used to bake bread all the time, take it out of the oven, and slice in only to find it soggy and underdone in the middle.
Another thing that I learned after many failed loaves of bread– when the recipe says “let cool before slicing,” it means just that. While it may feel good to tear into a steamy loaf of just-out-of-the-oven bread, most breads are still wet on the inside at that point. Give the loaf time to cool completely, and it’ll set up. Rewarm in the oven if you must have it warm.
These are, of course, notes for future recipes. This challah recipe seems pretty reliable– you can guess doneness just by color and time in the oven. Thirty to forty minutes, and your loaf will most likely be done to perfection.
- 3/4 cup warm water (100-110 F)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt or kosher salt
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing
- Pour the warm water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and whisk it in. Add the sugar, oil, and honey, and whisk until roughly combined.
- Stir in the 3 eggs, and whisk until incorporated.
- Stir in the all-purpose flour and salt, until a shaggy dough forms.
- Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface, for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Form the dough into a ball, coat with olive oil, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Gently punch down the dough, divide it into 3 (or more) pieces. Roll each piece into a long strand. Pinch the strands together at the top and braid as desired. Pinch the ends of the strands together when finished.
- Transfer the loaf onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Tuck each end of the loaf under, and shape the loaf with your hands. You can form the braided loaf into a ring or round if you wish. Allow to rise until doubled again, about 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel during the rise, to keep the dough from drying out.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush the loaf with a beaten egg. Bake at 375 F for 30-40 minutes, until the loaf is deep brown and sounds hollow when tapped. If the loaf browns before it’s done cooking through, cover it loosely with aluminum foil until done.
- Let the challah cool before slicing. Store in a resealable plastic bag, or in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Kamren’s original recipe featured raisins, and you can stir some of those into the dough if you’d like. Stir them in just before adding the flour. And if you haven’t had challah french toast, or haven’t made it at home, go do that immediately! It will change your breakfast game forever.