A Rich Tradition
Challah bread goes by so many names. Hallah, khala, khale,chałka, kitke, berkhes...the list goes on. This traditional Jewish egg-bread is usually eaten at special dinners and used as part of the Friday night advent of the sabbath as prayers are offered. Every parent can relate to the scene from "Fiddler on the Roof" during the Sabbath Prayer as a loving father and mother sing their prayer for their children as they gather around the dinner table. It speaks volumes of all the hopes parents have for the ones they love to make strong and brave choices. We join that sentiment. Oh the feelings of joy and hope that breaking bread with your family can bring! It is in that spirit of love that we share this bread today.
Light and sweet with a hint of butter, Challah has a tender velvety texture. The braiding of the bread is extremely traditional. It is said to symbolize separating or "letting go" as well as connecting one with the family and God. We'll show you the step-by-step process of how to braid the loaf. It doesn't matter if your loaf looks perfect. What matters is that you share it with your most treasured people.
In this Recipe
In our test kitchen, we prefer mixing this bread with an electric mixer. The dough is rather sticky and moist. If you knead it by hand, allow it to rest for about 15 minutes after you knead the initial dough 3-4 minutes. This will allow the flour to absorb the moisture of the dough and make it easier to knead by hand. Be careful not to get the water too warm, as it will kill the yeast. Because this is a sweet rich dough, the yeast will take longer than usual to raise, so we gave it a little extra yeast. We recommend the stronger “instant” yeast for this one.
Sweet Challah Egg Bread
Yield 1 large loaf
3 ½ cups Texas Pure Milling Bread Flour
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup melted butter
1 egg white (for egg wash)
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds or sesame seeds.
1. In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the sugar, yeast, 3 eggs, water, and melted butter. Mix 30 seconds on low speed. Turn off the mixer and add the flour and salt. Knead 5-7 minutes on medium speed.
2. Transfer dough to very lightly oiled large bowl, turning dough over to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Gently press dough to deflate, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size again, 40 to 60 minutes.
3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into 2 pieces, one roughly half size of other. (Small piece will weigh about 9 ounces, larger piece about 18 ounces.)
Divide large piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 15-inch-long rope, about 1 inch in diameter.
Line up ropes of dough side by side and pinch ends together.
Take dough rope on bottom and lay it over center rope.
Take dough rope on top and lay it over center rope. Repeat until ropes of dough are braided then pinch ends together.
5. Place braid on parchment lined baking sheet.
6. Divide smaller piece of dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 15-inch-long rope, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Braid together, pinching ends.
Brush some of egg wash on top of large loaf and place small braid on top of the larger braid, right in the center of the loaf.
Mist with water and place in an unheated oven until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to a hour.
7. Remove the loaf from the unheated oven. Make sure the oven rack is in the lower middle position. Preheat oven to 375°F.
Brush the loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired.
8. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the loaf registers 190°F.