Challah Bread Recipe
I’ve always loved Challah bread never really knowing it was such an iconic Jewish loaf. When Clyde and I first moved in together, before such times when carbs were deemed bad, we pretty much lived on bread, and I would always treat us to a loaf of Challah which was randomly sold in one of our local shops. It’s a sweet, brioche style loaf literally crying out to be slathered in butter. I have been searching for years to find the perfect recipe for Challah, and now, thanks to the wonderful Emma Spitzer and her book Fress, I am sharing this with you now to coincide beautifully with the start of the Jewish New Year celebrations, Rosh Hashanah *see, it’s not just thrown together*.
I know the thought of making bread can sometimes seem daunting, but not so this Challah loaf. This is a one bowl recipe with just a five minute knead, so do not feel remotely intimidated by this joyful bread. Just a note on the pronunciation of Challah, because I have, evidently, not been saying it right; apparently it has a silent c and is more of a hallah or holla. End of elocution lesson. Luckily for everyone concerned, this recipe makes two loaves, both traditionally made on a Friday to last the weekend. Or in my case, to barely last a scant 24 hours. If you have more self control, it may be worth freezing one for another occasion, but this will require some will power.
Bread making is therapy. Think of it as time in the kitchen creating a flour, egg and oil based masterpiece. These Challah loaves are so beautiful, they could definitely be displayed in any gallery. Briefly, however, before you devour them.
As you can see from the sunshine and the setting, I did photograph this recipe a little while ago. I also thought I would utilise the local produce by using some Calbourne Water Mill flour from the Isle of Wight. It’s perfect for such a wonderfully flavoured bread.
As I said, this is kerfuffle free bread, so just take a large bowl as we start this recipe. Tip in the flour, sugar, egg yolks, oil, yeast, salt and water.
Go in with your hands and fashion into a rough dough.
I hope your hands are prettier than mine.
Tip this dough out onto a floured work surface and bring the mixture together.
I do apologise for the proliferation of hand shots this week. It’s frankly upsetting.
Knead for around 5 minutes or until the ball of dough is smooth and elastic. Place it into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm to double in size. This will take roughly an hour and a half. Maybe more, maybe less, just keep a set of eyes on it.
When the time is up, your dough will be all puffy, risen and wonderful. I had gone out for the afternoon and left mine for rather longer than needed, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.
Now, give it a quick additional knead to knock the dough back. Next, as this makes two loaves, each formed into two plaits, divide your dough into 6 portions. Am I making any sense at all?
Roll each ball into rope like strips, measuring around 45cm each. Don’t get the ruler out and don’t worry if they look a bit rubbish, like mine.
Join three of the ropes together at the top then plait them, one over the other, until you get to the end, and then seal the ends.
Repeat with the other three lengths of dough to create your second loaf.
Cover the loaves with a tea towel and leave for a further 30 minutes to rise again. At this point, pop the oven on to pre heat to 150 degrees fan assisted. Once the time’s up brush these two beauties with beaten egg and then sprinkle with the optional sesame seeds * I didn’t have any in the Isle of Wight so mine remain unseeded*.
Put the loaves into the pre heated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. This amazing bread is cooked when it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the loaves on the bottom.
Now all you have to do is wait the unbearable length of time it takes for the Challah to cool sufficiently enough to slice and devour.
Soft, sweet, tender; Challah bread is everything. I know making your own bread takes time, but I couldn’t think of any greater reward than a slice of this wonderful baked offering.
Shana Tova to anyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah.
Challah Bread Recipe
Makes two medium sized loaves
You will just need a large bowl and a large baking sheet
600g white bread flour, plus some for your work surface
4 egg yolks, use the whites for meringues
80ml vegetable oil
90g caster sugar
1 tablespoon fast acting yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, optional
Anything you like to slather on this wonderful bread. It is traditionally dipped in honey during Rosh Hashanah
Take a large bowl and add all the ingredients, minus the egg and sesame seeds for decoration.
Bring everything together with your hands to form a soft dough. Dust your work surface with some flour then knead the Challah dough for around 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and leave to rise for around an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
Knock the risen dough back by giving it a little further knead then divide it up into 6 similar sized balls. Roll each ball out into long-ish ropes, each one around 45cm long. Plait 3 ropes into a good sized loaf, pinching the ends to seal and then repeat with the other 3 ropes for your second loaf.
Place onto an oiled baking sheet, cover with a tea towel and place in a warm spot for another 30 minutes.
Pre heat your oven to 150 degrees fan assisted. When your second rise is over, brush the Challah with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the sesame seeds, if you like. Place into the pre heated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and smelling amazing. The bread is cooked when it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
Leave to cool before slicing into generous slices and serving slathered in everything and anything. This bread keeps in your bread bin for 3 to 4 days or well wrapped, frozen, for a month or so.