Classic Jewish challah bread. Its characteristic braids make it one of the most beautiful breads, but it’s also one of the tastiest. Slightly sweet, this light and feathery challah bread will go well with any meal, whether sweet or salty.
Challah bread is a Jewish enriched yeast bread that is traditionally served on Friday night dinner. It’s similar to a French brioche but substitutes the butter for oil.
It’s seriously one of the most delicious breads you can eat! It’s light and feathery. It’s also versatile as it’s usually served with a meal: although it’s slightly sweet, it pairs equally well with sweet or salty foods.
This challah bread recipe is fairly straightforward to make, but the braiding will take some practice. But don’t worry, I’ve provided step-by-step instructions below!
Classic Jewish challah bread. Its characteristic braids make it one of the most beautiful breads, but it's also one of the tastiest. Slightly sweet, this light and feathery challah bread will go well with any meal, whether sweet or salty.
- 200 ml tepid water
- 25 g (0.9 oz) fresh yeast
- 500 g (3 1/2 cups) white flour plus more for dusting
- 1 large egg
- 60 g (1/3 cup) sugar
- 12 g (2 tsp) salt
- 40 ml (3 tbsp) vegetable oil
- 1/2 egg beaten
- 1 to 2 teaspoons water
- Handful sesame seeds , poppy seeds, or other seeds
Pour the water in into a bowl and add the yeast. Mix until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour and the egg and knead with an electric mixer using the dough hook on a low speed for 30 seconds.
Add sugar, salt, and oil and knead for another 3 minutes then increase the speed to medium and knead for 4 minutes until the texture is smooth.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until elastic, flexible and not too soft. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly floured bowl, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside to rise for about 40 minutes.
Shaping the Challah
Divide the dough into 4 even pieces. Each piece should be the same weight. Roll each piece into a rope, then press all four ropes together at one end.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the ropes of dough on top. Plait them into a braid, then press the other ends together and tuck them under the challah. (See the detailed braiding instructions at the end of this post)
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside to let rise for 30 to 40 minutes - the challah should rise but keep its shape.
In a small bowl, make the egg wash by combining the egg, water, and salt.
Just before baking, brush the challah top with egg wash, then sprinkle with seeds. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the challah is golden on top.
Braiding the challah bread
For the braiding, start by dividing the dough into even sizes. Each piece should weigh the same and be the same size. Weigh each piece using a scale. This might seem a bit overkill, but it’ll pay off when you have to start braiding your bread: by starting with even pieces, you’ll roll out even length ropes and won’t end up with one much shorter that prevents you from finishing.
Now this is where the fun begins!
The trick with braiding bread is to understand the pattern, and it’s a simple one, so don’t worry! Once you have it down, braiding bread is super easy!
The pattern is basically:
- Lift the 3rd rope with your right hand
- With your left hand, transfer the 1st rope UNDERNEATH IT and above the 2nd and 4th ropes, all the way to the right (your left will basically go under your right).
- Put the 3rd rope back down (in the same position).
- Now repeat! Lift 3, move 1 across, put 3 down, lift new 3, move one across, put new 3 down, etc…
Once you reach the end of the loaf, pinch the ropes together and tuck them under the challah.