I love the process of making homemade challah, and have made various types, Including more nutritious versions like Homemade Spelt Challah and whole wheat challah. If you’re favorite kind kind of challah is a traditional white challah recipe (mine is), this is my favorite recipe (I’ve gone through 10 so far).
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My Favorite Challah Recipe
Yields 3 large loaves, or 4 medium
For the challah dough:
- 1/4 cup warm water
- two 1/4-ounce packets or 4 1/2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons sugar for proofing yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 cup canola oil, plus 1-2 teaspoons for greasing the bowl
- 1 tablespoon fine salt
- 3 large eggs
- 7-8 cups bread flour (all purpose flour also works)
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 cup boiling water
For the topping:
- 1 egg yolk or full egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- tsp of salt
- In a 1-cup measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and mix in 1 teaspoon sugar. Let sit until mixture becomes thick, for about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour the oil, salt, remaining sugar and honey into a large mixing bowl. Mix with a whisk. Add the boiling water and mix well. Add the cold water and mix in.
- Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and add to oil mixture.
- When the yeast mixture is thick and bubbly, add to the bowl and whisk in. Add about 1 cup of the flour and whisk in well. Add another cup of flour and whisk in. Now you’ll need to switch to a wooden spoon. Add more flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have added a total of 6.5 cups of flour. Make sure you completely mix in each batch of flour before adding the next one. When the dough gets hard to mix, dump onto the counter and scrape out as much dough and flour as possible from the bowl.
- Add flour, starting with 1/4 cup at a time, turning the dough over and over and kneading until you have a smooth dough. You will know the dough is done when you rub your hand across the dough, and it doesn’t stick and feels smooth. You will unlikely add all of the flour in the recipe.
- Place 1 teaspoon oil into the bowl and rub around. Return the dough to the bowl, turn to coat in the oil, and cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise for 1.5 hour and then braid.
- Divide dough in half for two loaves of challah (and then split based on the amount of strands you want, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6). If you find dough is sticky as you are rolling out the strands, it’s not too late to add extra flour.
- I find this video from Jamie Geller for 6 stranded challah always helpful when I make challah.
- For the other challah, I tried a 5 stranded spiral braid from BeSondersGut, and the video is helpful, but it’s hard for the braid to look good if you don’t take the time to roll out nice, long evenly made strands (make sure dough is not too sticky too). I also think 4 strand braids look great (I find these instructions to be the least complicated).
Second rise and baking
- Brush the top and sides with the egg mixed with 1 tbsp water and salt (reserve the egg mixture, you will use it again)
- Let rise for 60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Put another coating of egg wash on the braided challah. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden.
- Best served slightly warm.
*If you want to refrigerate dough before baking, put the dough in the fridge (still covered) after the first 90 min rise. It can stay in the fridge for up to 5 days. Then, when you are ready to use it, take it out of the fridge, let it sit on the counter for around 15-20 min or so to get closer to room temperature, and then braid.
Some of my favorite designs:
regular braid with a rope (cut pieces in the rope and put on top of the braid for a funky design), add fresh herbs.
Braid and wrap around a ramekin and bake. When done baking, add olive oil with herbs (or your favorite dip) inside the ramekin.