I always used to insist that there’s no reason to make your own challah in Israel when there are so many delicious challahs available to buy. My mind was quickly changed when a good friend who I had invited to Shabbat dinner, delivered two fresh out of the oven challahs to my house one Friday afternoon. They were melt in the mouth, sweet, soft and everything you’d want out of a home-baked challah. She happily gave me the recipe and every since I make them as often as I can. There’s is no bought substitute anywhere. I get dirty looks from my family when Shabbat dinner comes around and I haven’t baked them.
What I love about this recipe is that the proofing is very forgiving – I have left the dough to rise for an hour or so longer than the recipe requires, and all was well with the challahs in the end. So this will work well with your cooking or other schedules.
12g (½ ounce) (1 heaped tablespoon) dry yeast (grains)
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon + ½ cup sugar
½ cup tap water
½ tablespoon salt
¾ cup oil
1 beaten egg
5 cups (or more) flour
For the glaze
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon sugar
How to do it
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar and let stand for 5 minutes
- Add the half cup of water, half cup of sugar, oil, egg, salt and lightly whisk together till combined
- Add the flour and mix in until you have a kneading consistency (add more flour if needed so you can easily knead it (up to half a cup even, but keep the dough a little sticky)
- Knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes and form a ball. Place in a lightly greased large clean bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Place the bowl in a warm area and let it rise for 2 hours (I put the dough in the oven – switched off – and I put a pan of boiling water on the bottom level, especially in the winter when it’s cooler. This helps the dough rise nicely.)
- After 2 hours, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes. (Do Hafrashat Challah at this stage)
- Place a piece of baking paper on a large baking tray
- Braid the challah. Divide the dough into 2, and set one ball aside. Divide the one ball into four equal balls (I use my kitchen scale to keep it even). Roll out four long sausages of dough about 2½ centimeters (1 inch) thick, no thinner. Pinch them together on the top and start braiding. See below for how to braid the four pieces, and pinch it closed at the end. (For a round challah, do a three piece braid and then just form it into a circle and pinch it closed at the end) Repeat for the second batch of dough. Place them length-ways on the baking tray, keeping some space between them. They may come together when they rise, but it’s not a problem. They will come apart easily after baking.
- Cover with a piece of baking paper and a tea towel, and allow to rise for an hour or so.
- Heat your over to 150°C (300°F)
- Whisk the glaze mix together and lightly brush over the challahs, sprinkle some sesame seeds if desired.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the challas are evenly golden on top.
Makes 2 challahs
How to braid a 4-strand challah
There are tons of methods you can find on the internet. This one is very simple and works for me.
With your 4 strands in front of you, from left to right they are strands 1, 2, 3 and 4 (1 is the far left, 4 is the far right at any given time)
- 4 over 2
- 1 over 3
- 2 over 3
Make sure to keep them as tight as possible without pulling on the strands. You can do this by keeping the spaces between the strands wide by rearranging the strands between each stage. Practice makes perfect!