The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


em120392's picture

Challah Bread

Hey Guys! I've been baking my way through The Bread Baker's Apprentice for a high school project. Here's my entry for Challah from a blog about bread which my brother and I share!

There are two Hebrew words for bread: lichem is an everyday bread and challah is the bread eaten on Sabbath, the day of rest. Challah is an enriched bread with oil, sugar and eggs, while Lichem is a basic lean dough. Before the bread is baked, the baker sacrifices a piece of the dough to the Gods. At any event, two challahs are two challahs must be blessed to prevent the breads from being shamed. To do so, the bread is placed under a challah Cover while the wine is being blessed. At Sabbath dinner, before the bread can be broken, the family must say in Hebrew, "Blessed are you, Lord Our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth."

Traditionally, challah is braided into a long loaf and lacquered with egg wash on the Sabbath. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, challah is circularly shaped to represent the coming year and long life. Sometimes it is shaped like a ladder, to symbolize the ascent to God after death. In comparison to the regular Sabbath Challah, the holiday bread is sometimes enriched with raisins or saffron, which were considered prized ingredients.

In comparison to his other recipes, Reinhart does not use a preferment in his challah recipe. Since it's an enriched bread, most of the flavor and texture comes from the eggs and sugar.

I began by mixing together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt and yeast. In another bowl, I mixed together eggs, egg yolks, water and oil. Using my new dough whisk, I stirred the wet into the dry until it made a shaggy dough. I added more flour so the dough was not sticky, and kneaded it for about 6 minutes, until it passed the windowpane test.

I let the dough rise for the first time for about an hour. At this point, Reinhart suggests to punch down the dough and knead for a few moments. Then, I let the dough rise for another two hours, until it doubled in size. Then, divided the dough in six equal pieces (making two loaves), shaped them into balls, and let the gluten relax for about 20 minutes.

With a dough ball in hand, I pressed the dough against the counter, slightly elongating it. Next, with two hands, I pushed the dough outwards in order to make it into a long strand. When I thought I reached my desired length, the dough shrank back slightly. So, I let the dough relax for a few minutes, and then stretched each section into a foot and a half length strand.

Next, I began braiding the strands. I opted to make two 3-strand braids so I wouldn't have one gigantic loaf that we'd never be able to finish. Beginning at the midpoint of the strands, I laid the three strands next to each other, and placed the right strand over the middle strand. Then, I placed the left strand over the middle strand, and continued braiding like I would hair. When I reached the end, I turned the loaf around 180 degrees, and braded the other side. Then, I rolled the ends together by pushing the dough against the counter with the heel of my hands. I tucked the ends underneath the loaf so it would have a finished look.

When I looked at the time, I realized it would be past midnight by the time the challahs proofed and baked. I was silly and didn't think ahead, and egg-washed the dough before refrigerating it (it was late!). I let the dough proof in the fridge until the next afternoon. After resting on the counter for about 2 hours so it warmed up, I baked the bread loaves in a 350 oven for about 40 minutes. As it was cooling, I realized that I forgot the second egg wash. This resulted with the loaf having an uneven, semi-shiny, semi-crackly surface. The braids looked nice, but it didn't have the lacquered crust.

When I ate a piece, I remembered how much I love challah. I love the tender, almost cake-like texture of the crumb, and the soft crust. Like the brioche, challah with raspberry jam made breakfast (and dessert!) delicious. I brought a loaf to my mentor, Mr. Esteban. I explained to him that I was disappointed in the crust, but I don't think he minded all that much. It's still bread, right? I also brought a half loaf to my Jewish grandparents. We always have challah on Rosh Hashanah, and it reminded me of the holidays. Nothing beats a good loaf of challah bread.



hungry_i's picture

Challah troubleshooting - help!

January 7, 2011 - 5:00pm -- hungry_i

Apologies if this isn't the best corner of the forum to post in.


Dear Fresh Loaf-ers.

Can anyone help me out with my challah questions? Or point me in the right direction of some resources?


I'm a super-newbie bread baker, so I'm a little overwhelmed by the variables involved, and I need some advice as to what may be going on.


Here's the deal:


Mateo Feo's picture
Mateo Feo


Hi everyone! (I'm new to the site and bake like a mad-man)

i love the site and wanted to share some of my baking adventures.  

This is my daughter when she was 3-days old and fresh out of the oven. She is still called Sophie Loaf to this day.  



Sophie Loaf


 challah was wonderful too! 

sustainthebaker's picture

Crunchy Bits in my Challah

December 20, 2010 - 12:34pm -- sustainthebaker

I recently made a loaf of Challah for my family. It was my first Challah and it came out with great flavor. It was a six-braided loaf which I did not let proof long enough, which lead to a bit more oven spring than you'd want from a Challah. The texture was light and fluffy, with a bit of creaminess to it. However, at the end of most bites there would be a gritty crunch to the bread. Any ideas?

I have two thoughts:

1.  I used honey, which had crsyallized. I did however, warm the honey back up to a liquid state before adding to the dough.

gene wild's picture
gene wild

Not sure I did this right it is my first time at trying to upload a picture.

Today was also my first go at a Challah. I used the BBA formula. While not perfect I think it came out ok.




In the preview I don't see the picture but will send this anyway as a test if nothing else.



Bill and Annie's picture

Challah Bread, "Shaping"

December 8, 2010 - 9:14am -- Bill and Annie

My wife and I love Challah and use it for a lot of sandwiches.  My problem is the shaping. I would like to step away from tradition and just make regular loafs. The traditional braiding looks beautiful but it does not make good sandwiches or substantial pieces of French Toast. Is their any special steps that have to be taken to achieve my desired results without causing anyone to gasp?

dmsnyder's picture

Brother Glenn coerced me into making Challah over Thanksgiving. Prior to that, the only Challah I'd made in recent years was Maggie Glezer's sourdough challah, which I like a lot, but it does have a distinct tang. So, we made the yeasted version of Glezer's own challah, and it was good. Trying a different formula prompted me to try others.

Today, I made the Challah from Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread." It is made with high-gluten flour. I mixed this very stiff dough in a Bosch Universal Plus. The mixer rocked and rolled, but it didn't "walk." I don't think my KitchenAid could have handled it. The ropes were a challenge to roll out. They required several rests to relax the gluten enough to permit sufficient lengthening. It braided nicely. I wish I could say the same for the braider! I'm sure I didn't lay out the ropes correctly. Back to the books.

Anyway, this formula makes about 3 1/2 lbs of dough. I made two Challot. They had huge oven spring, and I think they turned out pretty well, in spite of my ineptitude in braiding. Most important, they have a delicious flavor. This challah is less sweet than Glezer's. The crumb is more open but much chewier - no surprise given the high-gluten flour. I'm betting it makes wonderful toast and French toast!

Addendum: The challah did make wonderful toast. The crumb was quite tender. The chewiness is no longer there.


dmsnyder's picture

Thanksgiving day 2010

Rotisserie barbecued turkey (okay, so it's not bread)

Glenn (on the left) meets turkey (on the right). 

Day after Thanksgiving breakfast

San Joaquin Sourdough Baguette

Cinnamon rolls & Pecan rolls (made in muffin tins using NY Baker's Babka dough)

Cinnamon rolls, for kids who don't eat nuts

Pecan rolls, for the rest of us

Glenn makes challah

He's on a roll!

You should have seen the one that got away!

Here's the proof

Ready to bake


Challah c rumb

The challah made fantastic turkey sandwiches!

And, for dessert, the much anticipated Apple Crostada, inspired by trailrunner!

Apple Crostada!

Delicious! It had the flakiest, best tasting crust ever!

For better or worse, as I was enjoying a second slice while mentally reviewing the recipe, I realized a stick of butter actually is 8 tablespoons, not 4 tablespoons. That means I used 9 tablespoons of butter rather than the 5 T Caroline's recipe specified. No wonder the crust was so flakey!


Jonathankane's picture

Challah Problem

November 13, 2010 - 4:15pm -- Jonathankane

I made my first loaf of Challah from A Blessing of Bread by Maggie Glezer. The loaf split open down the middle. I did raise the temperature accidently to 375 for about 10 minutes and returned it to 325. Could this be the reason it split open? It's moist inside and tastes great. I appreciate any feedback. thanks, Jonathan




Subscribe to RSS - challah