The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Challah - Sort of

honeymustard's picture

Challah - Sort of

Challah and I have a history.

When I was 15, I tried making my first bread. Having watched my mother (but never having helped her) since I was little, making bread (particularly oatmeal brown bread) from scratch, I figured it would be a snap. After all, I was able to pick up my mother's cookies and cake recipes with no problem, so what's so different about bread?

I was about to find out.

Ambitious as I was, I took the prettiest bread in the recipe book I could find, and that was definitely challah. But challah fooled me three time s in a row, and I failed each time I tried to make the bread rise. I didn't realize how much a process, an art, bread making was at the time. Now I feel bad for belittling bread-making. But I've made up for it over the last decade. But--for no reason in particular--I'd not tried challah again since those failed three tries. I suppose I don't really have a real reason; I'm painfully Protestant and not at all Jewish, not a speck. But it doesn't stop me from admiring the loaf.

My admiration got the best of me, and I used the White Egg Bread recipe from Tassajara to make it into a couple loaves of challah.


I fully admit this isn't a traditional challah. It doesn't stop it from being pretty fantastic though. I did a four-strand braid, which I've never done before, and was able to accomplish through the help of my would-be sister-in-law, who watched me meticulously (and I thank her for it).

In order to brown the loaves, I put in on the lowest rack in my oven for the first 1/2 hour, and then brought it up to the highest for the second 1/2 hour after applying a second layer of egg white wash. They browned nicely, but I would still like to achieve that really elusive, beautiful, high-gloss finish at some point. Ah well. I'm working on it.

This successful bread came after a very unsuccessful try at caraway rye bread that was such a fail that I'm ashamed to even post about it. The whole process worked beautifully, except that in the final rise, it seemed to flatten for some reason. I've never had that happen before, so I have no explanation. I don't want to talk about it.

But in all seriousness, this bread makes me happy. Challah and I have come to a truce, for now. And all of it that was in the house is already gone.


teketeke's picture

What a nice story, Amelia. I admire you whose mother bakes cookies and bread for your family. That made me heart warm.  Your mother would be proud of you. Your caraway rye bread may be over proofed?  I have made a lot of inedible breads to be honest, even now. :)

Best wishes,


honeymustard's picture

Thanks, Akiko! And you might be right about the caraway rye. I was so sure it was fine as I was making it, it was rising beautifully each time, and the pre-ferment was perfect. As far as the taste was concerned, it wasn't that bad, but I feel that taste is something that includes texture, and that particular bread was lacking in that department. Ah well. Next time, maybe.

kim's picture

Hello Amelia,

You are real good for the first timer – braiding challah. I baked quite a lot of inedible breads before as a beginner; I think you will be slowly picking up your skills through the TFL site.