The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Challah Question

susanfnp's picture

Challah Question

Hi everyone,

I have a question about challah. I have not made it before today and I decided to give Hamelman's recipe a try. I'm wondering just how stiff this dough is supposed to be? I mixed it according to Hamelman's instructions, even adding a bit more water, but the dough was almost as stiff as bagel dough--and I make my bagels pretty darn stiff. The flour was a combination of regular and high gluten flour, for which I used KAF's Sir Lancelot. What should I have been looking for here in terms of dough consistency? The dough is fermenting now. I guess one good thing is that with such a stiff dough, I know the braiding will be easy!



Cooky's picture

I've made a ton of challah in the last six months or so, and it is defiinitely a much stiffer dough than the lean breads I practice on most of the time. After it ferments, it should be very easy to handle. Which makes braiding a lot of fun. I'm always amazed at how much handling it can take and still rise like thunder. 


"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

susanfnp's picture

... for the confirmation that my dough seems to be behaving according to plan. My braided loaves are proofing now. You're not kidding about rising like thunder!



Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn

   Susan, Please share your challah recipe.  I have one I like, but would like to try yours if it is successful to your satisfaction.  Thanks,              Ruth Redburn

susanfnp's picture

Hi Ruth,


Overall, I am happy with the way this turned out, but since I have not made challah before (and hardly eaten any before either) I can't say how this recipe compares to others. I will say that the faults I find with these loaves are a result of my own mistakes and not the fault of the recipe.


Challah loaves Challah crumb


I used the recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread:


1 lb, 5.4 oz bread flour (67%)

10.6 oz high-gluten flour (33%) (I used KAF SIr Lancelot)

1.8 oz sugar (5.5%)

2.4 oz egg yolks (7.5%)

4.5 oz whole eggs (14%)

2.4 oz vegetable oil (7.5%)

10.2 oz water (32%) (I used a bit more)

0.6 oz salt (1.9%)

0.26 oz instant yeast (0.8%)


[Paraphrasing Hamelman's instructions here, with apologies to him and you if I'm grossly misrepresenting something. I highly recommend getting the book if you don't have it already!]

Mix to a stiff dough. Desired dough temp = 78-80F

Bulk fermentation 2 hours; degas once after 1 hour by gently pressing on the dough

Divide into 3 pieces (for 3 loaves) and further into the appropriate number of strands for the braiding technique you will use

Allow dough relax about 10-15 minutes before rolling out strands and braiding loaves

Proof 1.5-2 hours at about 76F

Before baking, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.

Bake without steam at 380F for about 30 minutes


Some notes on my loaves:

I didn't realize how stiff the dough would be and therefore how much heat would be generated by mixing. As a result, my water was not cold enough, so my dough was too warm (about 85F). So I made my bulk fermentation time a bit shorter and proofed for a little less than 1.5 hours. Even so, I think they were a bit overproofed, as evidenced by the relatively small oven spring.

Cooky was right on about the stiff dough becoming very easy to work with after fermentation.

I decided to make two larger loaves instead of the three. These are some giant loaves, and next time I will do three.

I made a 6-braid and a 4-braid. The 6-braid is much easier and looks nicer too, IMO. My braiding technique really needs work. As you can see in the photo, I was especially stymied by how to deal with the ends. I think next time I have to taper the ends of the individual strands a lot more than I did, in order to get a nicely tapering loaf.

Inconsistency in how tightly I shaped the strands resulted in the uneven crumb structure seen in the photo.


This is definitely a bread I will try again. Ruth, if you make this recipe, be sure to let us know how it turns out!



slaughlin's picture


Could you clarify the amount of egg used in the recipe.  The 2.4 oz and 4.5 oz is confusing to me.  By the way the bread looks great


susanfnp's picture

Hey, nice to see another FNP here!


2.4 oz egg yolks is about 4 yolks. 4.5 oz of whole eggs (whites + yolks) is about 2 eggs. So the entire thing has 4 yolks plus 2 whole eggs, or a total of 6 yolks and 2 whites. (I never realized that the whites were so much heavier than the yolks.)



verminiusrex's picture

One thing I love about challah is that it's hard to overproof.  I was away for an extra 2 hours during my challah's bench proof once, and after 3 hours it just kept getting bigger rather than hitting critial mass and deflating.  I'm sure there is a limit, but I genearlly bench proof between 1-2 hours before baking.  It's also the best bread for making a braided loaf, and the oven spring is incredible.

Elagins's picture

Beautiful loaves! I've been making challah for some time and haven't been able to get as lovely a six-braid as you!

One thing: as a child and as an adult, whenever we had challah, it was always yellow, which comes from soaking a small pinch of saffron in boiling water for 30 minutes, then adding the cooled saffron water to the dough during initial hydration (obviously, the saffron water counts toward total water).

With a bit more yellow in your current loaves, they could easily grace any Jewish sabbath table.

susanfnp's picture

Thank you for the compliment and the suggestion. I will do that next time. I seem to remember that Nancy Silverton calls for saffron in her challah, but I have not made hers.

I don't really know anything about this bread other than it looks and tastes good, and was fun to make. Can you tell me anything about its significance in Jewish tradition?



Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn

   Susan,  Thanks for the recipe.  I really want to try it.  I made a couple of loaves a few months ago because I was having some friends over for brunch and wanted to make French toast. It is the best for French toast.  I didn't braid it then, made it in usual fashion in 9x5 Inch pans.   My arteries are probably clogged with all those eggs.  Will try your recipe and let you know how it compares soon.           Ruth Redburn