The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Challah -- Don’t Try This At Home

Kneads_Love's picture

Challah -- Don’t Try This At Home

This is a post about how NOT to bake a challah. Not that it wasn’t delicious. It was. We totally just scarfed down, like half of it, still warm from the oven. I know… we’re shameless. But still and all, making it was a nightmare.

Here is the recipe.

Note: Do NOT follow this recipe. Even though this is maybe the sweetest, richest, eggiest challah I have ever tasted; chewy and doughy, with just the right amount of crust, there are 10,000 things wrong with this recipe. Baking it ruined my day. Maybe my life.

Sponge (Quick Starter)

Dissolve: 1 packet dry-active yeast

Into: 8oz Water (warm)

The mix: 1 cup (4.5 oz) All Purpose Flour

Chillax the starter for like 10 – 15 min.


Mix: 2 oz water

With: ½ cup honey

And: ¼ cup Vegetable Oil

And: 2 Eggs

And: 2 Egg Yolks

Beat together.

Add Starter.

Then mix in: 15.5 oz AP Flour

And: 1.5 tsp salt

I know what you’re thinking, “ok, so what’s the problem?”

The problem is that the consistency is like a thick pancake batter. Except it sticks to everything it touches.

I dumped it onto the counter and tried to knead it. Have you ever kneaded batter? I slapped it, stirred it, swirled it, pounded it, and scooped it. 25 minutes later, the counter, my hands, my arms, my shirt, the cabinets, were covered in sticky, wet formless dough. I alternated between using my hands and using a scraper to try to keep everything in the middle of the counter.

So, I decided to add some flour. Pouring the flour onto the counter and onto the dough and mixing it in. For 3 cups of flour I labored on this beast (yes, I know that I just used “a cup of flour” as a unit of time.)

It finally took on some shape. Still very sticky.

Oil a bowl and let it rise for 90 min. (try to get as much of it off of your hands and arms and into the bowl as you can.)

After the first rise, separate it into 2 balls. Let rest for 5 min. Cut each ball into 3 balls. Let rest for a few more minutes.

Roll out into strands. More flour was essential to being able to work with the strands.

Form 2 braided-Challah-shaped-thingies (Some folks refer to these as loaves.)

Mix 1 egg with about a 1/4 cup honey  and paint the loaves.

Let rise for 60 – 90 min.

Paint loaves again.

Bake at 375 for 35 min. Rotating baking pan after 20 min. When you open to rotate, also cover the loaves with some foil to prevent over-crusting.

Try to take it out when the internal temp is around 195. After 10 min, I poked it with my digi-pen and it was 205. Time to take it out.

Cool on wire rack to prevent bottoms from getting soggy.

The loaves were a touch misshapen but not as bad as they might have been.

I want to find a recipe for challah that is as sweet, eggy and doughy as this one but which is easier to work with.


dwfender's picture

I want to take a guess and say that you used cup measurements for this recipe instead of weights for the that correct? 

Quickly looking at the numbers, it doesn't look like they are too far from recipes I've used successfully. I would definitely say that if you are using scoops to measure flour, there is really no way to do it accurately and you should invest in a scale if you haven't already done so. 

Peter Reinhart's recipe is a good starting point and if you use good ingredients the bread comes out pretty well. 

375F seems like a pretty high temperature to me for a dough with that much enrichment. There are a lot of eggs and quite a bit of sugar so it may have been better to cook raound 325 or so for longer. It also looks like your oven cooks very unevenly. Those dark spots are a sign that it isn't a great oven. If it's not an old oven I would see what is actually inside the oven that would be blocking the air from circulating etc...A lower temperature bake may help give you a more even brown crust. 


Kneads_Love's picture

Hi D-Fender ("w" = "-")

Thanks for your thoughts. I have a good digital scale and I even used it... at first... (you'll note that the flour and water measurements are in OZ.) However, I kinda made this recipe up by combining different recipes -- some of which were given in volume as opposed to weight, so I recorded the weights of the materials I used but, you are correct, it was a fairly "loose cannon" process.

Love the idea about the lower temps for enriched recipes. I don't own any bread cookbooks... having preferred to rely on various sites like this one, but sometimes, going with an expert does in fact make a difference. So it may be time to make an investment. 

Re: The oven... Its a fairly new Bosch, so its a good oven. Unless I am mistaken, the heat comes from the gas pilot at the bottom and rises through the oven. I was using a big baking sheet, so it’s possible that the heat had to wrap around the edges of the sheet causing inconsistencies. But between you and me, the Challah has a large oven spring, so its almost always pale in the middle where it spreads and the egg wash doesn't cover it. Also, it’s possible that the honey glaze was not perfectly even resulting in discoloration. I would wait until I baked a more simple bread (on a smaller sheet) to see how the heat flow is going. You may still be correct, but I am concerned that all the other factors could be confusing the results.



dwfender's picture
AP Flour100.00%330
Whole Eggs12%40
Egg Yolks12%40
Vegetable Oil12%38


I know challah is pale during the oven spring, but if you look at your pictures there are very obvious dark spots on your bread. That's a pretty clear sign of uneven cooking. It could be uneven wash, not sure. Just something to keep in mind. The recipe I use for challah is the one above. Give it a shot, works well. 

Desired Dough temp is 75F
Use the Improved mixing method and only incorporate the oil after the gluten has been well developed
Bulk ferment for 1.5 hours @ 72F. Stretch and fold half way through to even out the temperature
Divid to 150 gram pieces. Preshape Log and bench rest for 15 minutes
Final shape....roll out the logs then braid. Egg wash after shaping
Final proof 1.5 hours @72F Egg wash again before baking
bake at 350F, three-strand braid for 30-35 minutes; four strand for 35-40 minutes.



Good Luck!


Kneads_Love's picture

Gorgeous! GORGEOUS! Would I tell a lie?! Such a Challah! I can see what you mean by even/uneven. I will monitor the oven the next time I bake and see what happens. I love that your recipe has everything in both B%’s and g’s. (I don’t have a clue as to how much an egg weighs – Oh. Just Googled it… 2 – 2.5 oz… which is in the neighborhood of 57 – 70 g. I am assuming this includes the shell, whereas your recipe likely does not. So, I’m guessing at this size it’s basically: 1 egg and 2 egg yolks.)

I am going to try this recipe in the next couple of weeks and will report back -- unless my Sourdough Starter finally takes off, in which case, this thread will never hear from me again ;-)

Aside: I just clicked on your site link.  Really nice work! The photo of the Whiskey Cake looked like something out of Williams Sonoma. But those Samosa’s? O-M-G! (And that you reference Melisa Clark AND Madhur Jaffrey on the opening page?!) D-Fender! We are totally going to be New Best Friends. 

dwfender's picture

Haha. Thank you. It's a work in progress! Good luck with your bake. Let me know how it comes out or if you need anymore help with anything.


dwfender's picture

I should I add that I overcooked this by about 5-10 degrees. The crumb was a little dry. You probably don't want to take it this dark, but the picture shows how even cooking should look at least. 

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

You could substitute oil or parve margarin for the butter and use Almond milk in place of milk to make it Kosher Parve.  The picture is the first one I ever was able to upload to TFL BUT IT CAME OUT SIDEWAYS!!!!!  Varda--HELP!  The bread looked good though.  stu

Challah, Dairy, The Best Challah Source: Stuart Borken
Category: Breads Type: Challah ------------------------------------------------------------

3/4 Cup Whole milk, I use Lactose Free

2 Tablespoon butter, salted, melted to hot in micro

2 eggs extra large at room temp

1/8 Cup Clover honey, Pam a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill it half full

1/4 Cup Sugar

1 Teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 Cup All-Purpose flour

1/2 Cup whole wheat flour or omit this and use 3 cups All-Purpose

1 1/2 tsp rapid rising yeast, I like SAF but any one is fine

4 Drop yellow food coloring optional, I, Stu Borken, use it

1 whole egg scrambled for egg wash

sesame seeds or poppy seeds for decoration Instructions: Instructions: Create a warming oven and warm a bread rising bowl oiled with bland vegetable oil. Set up the KitchenAid stand mixer with the wire whisk in place. Place butter into a Pyrex custard cup or ramekin and melt it in the microwave oven. Into the bowl of the mixer, place; Milk, butter, eggs, sugar, honey, food coloring, then whip well until frothy.  Then add the yeast and whisk well to dissolve yeast.  Remove whisk.  Pour flour into bowl.  Place dough hook in place and blend wet and dry ingredients then when all wetted put setting on 2 & knead 5 minutes scraping dough off hook a few times. Remove the dough from the KA bowl and place it onto a wooden board (the dough should be soft but not sticky and no flour should be needed on the board or your hands, if you do need some, of course, use it) then knead it into a ball and place into the bowl turning over once to grease it.  Cover with damp cloth and place in warming oven for 90 minutes.  The first hour warms the dough and awakens the yeast.  The final 30 minutes raises the dough.  Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a board.  Cut into three sections not pie like but as though you were cutting it in half but off center to actually cut it into three long strips. At this time, place a pizza stone in an oven and set heat at 400-degrees. Cover the dough strips with a damp cloth for  5 minutes. Working with one piece at a time,  gently flatten each piece, into a rectangle.  Take the left side and fold to 2/3 across to the right.  Take the right side and fold 2/3 to the left.  Pat this down again flat, then stretch this rectangle to about 8 inches long, and from the edge closest to you start rolling up this rectangle, pinching down the rolled edge, until you have rolled up the entire log then seal the final seam by pressing with the heel of your hand.  Roll this log to 12 to 14 to 16 inches. Fatter in the center and tapered on the ends.  Rest the logs on their seam side.  Cover each one with a damp cloth.  Then braid and pinch the ends and seal together and fold the ends under.  Corn meal a pizza peel and gently place the braided dough onto the corn meal dusted peel.  Place the peel and dough into a warm oven and spray the oven with water.  Allow to rise for about 30-45 minutes until it has risen to almost double.  Remove the peel with dough on it and paint with egg wash.  At this time you may garnish with seeds.  TURN OVEN TEMP DOWN to 350. Then gently place dough onto the hot stone and toss 2 ice cubes onto the oven floor. Allow to bake for 35 minutes, look at it at 25 minutes to see if the oven is too hot, and if it's getting to dark brown and when you think it's done done take it out and tap the bottom and see if it sounds hollow and looks baked, which would be at 25-35 minutes of baking time. If it is done, remove to a cooling cake rack.  If not done, then remove the stone and place the bread onto the bare rack or onto a lower rack, if it fits, and turn heat up to 375 for 3 minutes and then remove the bread and place on a cooling rack and let cool.  

Kneads_Love's picture

Thanks for your post. The Challah looks beautiful. And so nicely braided. Who knew when I was typing my post that I would receive a helping hand from such esteemed bakers? I am really going to have to up my game.

The milk in this recipe must make the Challah very creamy. 

All this talk of bread before breakfast... time to go fry up some Challah French Toast. (I find the addition of vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup can turn even the most humble loaf into a dish fit for a king.)


Kneads_Love's picture