Today I am sharing this recipe for the traditional Jewish egg bread, Challah. I will be the first to admit that when I first read the name, long back, I pronounced the “ch” in challah bread how you pronounce it in “chart”. I must have heard someone say it “Halla” and thats when I corrected myself. If you are not sure how to pronounce Challah bread, check it out here.
Baking Challah bread at home has always been on my wish list. I think its the braiding that has always caught my attention and with easter only a week away I thought it would be perfect to have a go at one of the prettiest shaped breads I know.
It also gave me the opportunity to finally bake from the Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook that I have had on my shelf for a while. This recipe for whole wheat challah bread is from there.
Hot Bread Kitchen is a New York City bakery that has employed and empowered immigrant women over the years, providing them skills to succeed in the culinary industry. The cookbook is a collection of the recipes that they use in the bakery and I absolutely love it, since the bread recipes are not from one region, but from all over the world and are heritage recipes. If you love baking bread like I do, this cookbook is a great buy for your cookbook shelf.
I have been baking bread for few years now and love the joy of making home made bread.There is a different sense of accomplishment that you get after you take a freshly baked loaf out of the oven. Seeing everyday ingredients like flour, water, yeast combine to make something so beautiful and flavorful is amazing. Since I always try to make my homemade breads as much whole wheat as possible, I made the Challah bread half whole wheat, half all purpose too.
The depth of flavor in this whole wheat challah bread comes from the pâte fermentée that is made at least 8 hours earlier and then added to more flour, water, eggs, and yeast and then after two rises, some braiding and oven time you get a golden hued loaf to enjoy and eat.
The egg yolks do give it a little eggy flavor, but that is how challah bread is supposed to be (or so I have read). If you dont want that and are not opposed to eggs in your bread, use whole eggs instead of just yolks. I didn’t mind the taste, but know people who would, so thought would make a note here of that. I actually used the challah for some savory french toast and it was an absolute delight.
When I first started making this recipe, I thought I will try the simpler three braided Challah bread. Some time during the mixing of the dough, I decided to be more adventurous and decided will do the six braid Challah loaf. I found this very helpful youtube video and made my braiding a breeze. It is a little tricky but once you get the hang of it, its relatively easier. The end got messed up a little, but am very happy with most of the shape of the Challah.
- ½ cup plus 1 tsp lukewarm water
- ⅔ tsp active dry yeast
- 180 gms (1⅓ cups plus 1 tbsp) bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp water
- 220 gms (1¾ cup) whole wheat flour
- 85 gms (2/3 cup) bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 3 large egg yolks ( you could also use 2 large eggs instead)
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- 1½ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- In a stand mixer attached with a dough hook, add the water and yeast. Add in the flour and salt. Mix together on low speed for 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours and a maximum of 24 hours.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the water, and both flours. Mix on low till combined and then let rest for 20 minutes for the flours to hydrate.
- In a separate bowl, add the 3 yolks (or 2 beaten whole eggs), the oil, honey, salt and sugar. Add in the Pâte Fermentée along with the yeast. Mix on low for 2 minutes, and then turn speed up to medium high and knead for another 5-6 minutes. Apply the windowpane test to check if the gluten has developed (you should be able stretch out the dough to a thin film without breaking it)
- Put the dough in a well greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rise in room temperature for 1½ to 2 hours.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.
- You can shape the dough into either a 3 braid challah or a 6 braid challah. To make a 6 braid one I have provided the youtube link to the instructions in the post above. You will need to divide each piece of dough into six equal parts and make long thin ropes of each part. Then following the technique shown in the video braid the loaf.
- Set the loaves on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Beat the egg for the egg wash. Carefully brush the loaves with the egg, reserving the leftover egg for a second wash.
- Loosely cover the bread with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature to rise for another 1 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C.
- Uncover the challah and brush them again carefully with the egg wash.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and let dry for 10 minutes on the counter.
- Bake loaves in oven for about 25 minutes till they are mahogany colored. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on.
- Let loaves cool on wire rack completely before cutting into them.