A bread that can’t help but bring smiles to people’s faces, no matter their age. Whether you enjoy it freshly baked and still warm from the oven, toasted, made into French toast or made into an indulgent bread & butter pudding, this loaf will most certainly be making a regular appearance in your kitchen!
- 900 g strong bread flour, plus extra for when kneading & braiding (although try not to add too much, as it will make the mixture dry)
- 30 g fresh yeast or 20g instant dried yeast, dissolved in 100ml lukewarm water (my preference is using fresh yeast which you can get from kosher supermarkets or bakeries)
- 105 g golden caster or caster sugar
- 260 ml lukewarm water
- 80 ml oil sunflower oil or light olive oil, plus some extrafor greasing the bowl
- 2 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 10 g salt
- 1 large egg, beaten with ½ tbsp. water
- sesame seeds, poppy seeds, mixed seeds or challah topping (I like “Everything But The Bagel” Seasoning)
- Your favourite jam, nut butters, smoked salmon, style of eggs…the list is endless!
- In a medium size bowl, combine the yeast (crumble if using fresh) and 100ml lukewarm water, together with the sugar and leave to stand for 10 minutes. During this time you should see the liquid start to foam and froth as the yeast activates.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the activated yeast liquid along with 260ml lukewarm water, the oil, eggs and egg yolk and knead (either by hand or using the dough hook attachment on an electric mixer) for 10 minutes – the dough will go from being a rough, shaggy mix to a lovely smooth ball.
- Add the salt, then continue kneading for an additional 5 minutes until it is thoroughly mixed into the dough.
- Brush the inside of a large, clean mixing bowl with a touch of oil, then form your dough into a large ball and place it into the bowl, brushing it all over with a little more oil to prevent it from sticking.
- Cover the bowl with cling film or a clean kitchen towel and leave it to rise in a warm place for between 1 and 1½ hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
- Leaving the risen dough in the bowl, use your fists to “punch” the air out of it, then carefully remove it onto a clean, lightly flour-dusted (you might not need the flour), work surface.
- Knead the dough for 5 minutes and, using the palm of your hand, push out all of theair bubbles alternating between your left and right hand as you knead (alternatively you can use an electric mixer fitted with dough hook set on alow speed). Once the dough is soft and smooth, shape it into a ball then cover it with a clean tea towel and leave it to rest for 5 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400°F, gas mark 6, 200°C (180°Cfan-assisted) and place an oven-proof dish, filled with water, on the bottom –this will create steam and give your bread a lovely crust. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat –if you’re making 2 challahs then you’ll need two trays.
- If you’re making two challahs, then divide your mixture into two using asharp knife and set one half aside whilst you shape the first.
- Take your dough and shape it into a log, then leave it to rest for aminute or two, before cutting it into portions for the number of strands you want to plait i.e. three portions for three strands etc. If you are a novice challah baker, then I recommend you start with a three-strand brand and work your way up.
- Working with one portion at a time, press any remaining air bubbles outof the dough, then roll it into one long, evenly sized, log around 30cms in length, then set aside and repeat the process with each of the remaining dough portions.
- Place the logs side-by-side on your worksurface, then firmly press the tops together so that they are attached. Now it’s time to start braiding! This you do in exactly the same way as you would if braiding hair (there are lots of videos on YouTube that demonstrate this), making sure that your braid is tight, but not so tight that it stretches the dough. Once you reach the end of the logstrands, pinch them together and gently tuck them just underneath the loaf. Ifyou are making two challahs, then repeat this process with the remaining dough.
- Place your challah(s) onto the prepared baking tray(s), then cover the dough with a clean tea towel and set it aside to rise until it has doubled in size – this will take 20-30 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is.
- For the glaze, break an egg into a small mixing bowl and, using a fork whisk it together with ½ tbsp water then, with a pastry brush, brush themixture over the entire surface (including the sides) of the challah.
- Sprinkle the with loaf with your choice of seeds or challah topping then place into the oven and bake for 24-25 minutes for medium challahs – or for35-40 minutes if you are making one large one. Remove from the oven when golden brown and remove to a wire rack to cool for as long as you are able toresist it!
- When making this recipe, I’d LOVE to see how you get on so either sendme a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a picture to Instagram using the #myrelationshipwithfood and tag @myrelationshipwithfood
Lisa’s tip – Once you’ve mastered the art of making a basic homemade challah, the world really is your oyster! I love turning mine into monkey bread, but you can also add melted chocolate or cinnamon and raisins to the dough mixture just before platting. The dough mix can be made a day in advance and left, covered, to rise in the fridge and then baked the next day. You can also freeze the dough mixture - after kneading it, roll the dough into a ball then place it into a large, lightly greased polythene bag, seal tightly and put straight into the freezer - the dough will keep for 5 weeks. To thaw, remove the bag of dough, unseal it and leave it to rise for 5-6 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.