How to Make Challah Bread
Challah is one of the most beautiful breads in the world. It is rich and has a hint of sweetness to it. This braided bread itself is both tender and moist on the inside and firm on the outside. It can be a great French toast to start your day or as an accompaniment to your favorite dinner. Challah bread is a very important centerpiece in different Jewish celebrations. These include Rosh Hashanah, Purim, and Shabbat. This article will teach you how to make this gorgeous, golden bread.
All You Need to Know About Challah Bread
The word ‘challah’ refers to the process of separating a small portion of the bread dough before braiding. This is a Mitzvah or a commandment that Jews have to observe. The separated portion serves as one’s contribution and is given to the Kohen. In principle, any loaf of bread can be a ‘challah’ as an essential element to fulfilling the Hebrew commandment called, “hafrashat challah”.
So, what is challah bread? This is a special loaf of bread that is very important in Jewish cuisine. It is an integral part of Jewish ceremonies and holidays. There are other types of braided bread, especially in Eastern Europe. They include the kalacs, kalach, colac, and kolach. It is not known whether these breads got their inspiration from the traditional challah of the Ashkenazic Jews.
Challah bread is a yeast dough with plenty of eggs. It is moist, rich, and with a hint of sweetness.
The traditional challah bread recipe consists of eggs, yeast, fine white flour, sugar, water, and salt. More modern recipes call for whole wheat flour instead of white flour. There are also those who prefer to use oat flour or spelt flour.
Sephardic Jews do not use eggs in their challah recipes. One can also add other ingredients, depending on the nature of the celebration or holiday. For example, people can add raisins to their challah bread recipe during festive and joyous occasions. Raisins symbolize happiness and sweetness. There are also those who sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds on their loaf of bread. This symbolizes the manna that the heavens provided to sustain the people during their exodus from Egypt.
If you want to add more flavor to your challah bread, you can use cinnamon, almonds, orange zest, or chocolate chips.
This awesome bread recipe will require the following ingredients.
- 2 teaspoons of instant yeast or active dry yeast
- 1 cup of lukewarm water
- 4 to 4.5 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- Yolk of 1 large egg, reserve the white
- ¼ cup of granulated sugar
- ¼ cup of canola oil or other neutral-flavored vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons of salt
How to Make Challah Bread
The first thing you need to do is to activate the yeast. It will help in making the bread dough rise a lot faster. Fill a small bowl with 1 cup of lukewarm water. Add the instant or active dry yeast and mix well. Let it stand for about 5 to 10 minutes or until you can see a thin layer of froth at the top. If you don’t see this froth, then you have to buy new active dry yeast.
Put the all-purpose flour in a stand mixer bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Turn on the stand mixer to combine the dry ingredients. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Collect the flour mixture into a mound and create a well or a crater in the center. Put the whole eggs, oil, and egg yolk. Whisk the liquid ingredients until you get a slurry mixture. Slowly incorporate a little of the flour at a time. Pour the yeast over the slurry and mix well. You can use a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon to create a shaggy bread dough. Continue mixing until it is already difficult for you to mix by hand.
Attach a hook attachment to your stand mixer and knead the bread dough for about 6 to 8 minutes at low speed. You can also knead the dough by hand. You will need to knead it for about 10 minutes or so. If it feels sticky, you can add a teaspoon of all-purpose flour at a time. Continue kneading until you get a smooth, soft, and ball-shaped dough.
Lightly coat a large bowl with oil. Transfer the ball of challah bread dough into this bowl. Cover the dough with a plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm place and leave it there for about 2 hours. Doing so will facilitate the more efficient rising of the dough and the doubling of its size.
Divide the bread dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece to form a 16-inch long dough rope. If you notice the ropes shrinking during the rolling process, you may want to rest them first for about 5 minutes before you continue.
Collect the three dough ropes on one end. Squeeze this part so that the ropes will stick to one another. Now braid the ropes as if braiding yarn or hair. Once you get to the other end of the ropes, squeeze all of them together to complete the braided bread.
Place the challah bread loaf on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a little amount of flour over the loaf and cover using a kitchen towel. Place it in a warm place and away from drafts. Let the loaf rise for about an hour. This will make the bread pillowy and puffed.
About 20 minutes before you start baking, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine a tablespoon of water and the egg white that you reserved. Brush this over the challah bread. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. At the 15-minute mark, rotate the baking sheet. Check the internal temperature of the challah bread. It should be about 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
Transfer the challah bread on a cooling rack. Wait for it to cool down a bit before slicing.
Making challah bread is easy, although it does take time. The flavor of this bread more than justifies the long process of making it.