The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Honey Question

Janknitz's picture

Honey Question

I'm entering a challah baking contest this weekend.  I plan to use Rose Levy Beranbaum's Challah with Sourdough recipe (on her website, not in her book) which is what I bake all of the time.  That challah has a wonderful flavor and texture. 

I don't particularly like a sweet challah and one of the things I like about this challah is that it's not overly-sweet.  But I know I will be up against many sweet challahs, as most recipes tend to be too sweet for my tastes.  My kids complain all the time that my challah is not as sweet as others' and they prefer it to be sweeter. 

 Unfortunately, I don't have time to experiment and make multiple batches.  I usually make a round braided challah, but found out yesterday that the rules require a simple three-strand braided challah.  So I can't use any of the ones I already have in my freezer and won't have enough time to get my stiff starter up to the volume needed to make more than one loaf. 

The recipe I use has 60 grams of honey to 424 grams of flour (plus 75 to 85 grams of stiff starter).  I'm thinking of increasing the honey by 50% to 90 grams,  or perhaps something in between 60 and 90 grams.  Will that be too sweet?  Will the increase in honey affect the texture of the challah at all?  Should I make any adjustments to the rest of the formula to compensate for the effects of more honey?

pmccool's picture


You might also want to try Beth Hensperger's Sweet Vanilla Challah.  It only has 1/2 cup of sugar to 6 or 7 cups of flour, which is well below the icky-sweet range.  The kicker is the addition of the vanilla, which amps up the perceived sweetness of the small amount of sugar in the recipe.

Note that the recipe only uses volume measurements, not weights.


Janknitz's picture

My kids did, though.  I felt it had a sort of chemical taste, perhaps becuase my vanilla was not of great quality.  It was a beautiful challah, though, and my kids devoured it.  And it had a divine smell!

rainwater's picture

Don't fix it if it isn't broke.   Stay with your personal tastes and proven results.  It's not about winning, but about presenting your effort.  Maybe after tasting all those sweet challahs, they will find your challah refreashing.....Also, why tamper with something that may throw off the delicate flavor of your natural yeasted challah? 

ericjs's picture

Hear hear!

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Jan.

Funny you should ask!

I'm not the challah maven you are, but, as it happens, I just made Maggie Glezer's Sourdough Challah for the first time today. (It's delicious, by the way!) 

Glezer's recipe calls for 60 gms of honey with 400 gms of flour. She points out that sugar above 12% interferes with yeast, and this is more of an issue with wild yeast than with commercial yeast. Therefore, she prescribes less sugar/honey in sourdough challah than in yeasted challah.

For what it's worth (which is a lot, to me), my wife, like you, doesn't care for challah usually, because it's too sweet and too eggy for her. She actually liked this sourdough challah.

 The subtle sweetness of the honey and the tang of the sourdough play off each other delightfully - much nicer than I expected. I think I've just added a 47th bread to my list of favorites. <sigh>

So, anyway, get my wife drafted as a judge in your challah competition, and you're a sure winner.


Janknitz's picture

Our challah tonight was really "just right" IMHO, and I don't think I will monkey with the honey.  I make 4 small challahs once a month and freeze them, so we just have to pull one out of the freezer Friday mornings to thaw in time for our Shabbat dinner.  

RLB's sourdough challah is actually leavened with commercial yeast--the sourdough is there to act more like a pate fermente to condition the dough rather than leaven or flavor the challah.  It does give the bread a beautiful texture.  

Now I'm curious about Maggie Glezer's sourdough challah.  Guess that will have to go on my list ;o)