Challah holds a special place in my heart as my all-time favorite recipe, and my grandma's wisdom makes it so that this recipe comes out perfect every time.
Discover the timeless art of baking Challah, a cherished tradition and mitzvah that transcends generations. In this recipe, I'll guide you through creating a flawlessly fluffy Challah that has been perfected with tips and tricks passed down by my grandmother.
This is a water challah recipe. Unlike traditional egg challah, which incorporates eggs for richness and flavor, this water challah showcases the simple yet magical transformation of flour, water, and a few essential elements into a heavenly loaf of bread. The distinction lies in the unique texture and taste of water challah, offering a lighter and airier crumb. With its soft interior and golden crust, this Challah is not only a staple for Shabbos but also a versatile treat for sandwiches or even snacking.
Why You’ll love this Recipe:
Delightfully Fluffy: Indulge in the pure satisfaction of biting into slices of Challah with an exquisitely fluffy and tender interior, beautifully contrasting the golden, crisp crust.
Unmatched Versatility: This recipe offers boundless opportunities to infuse your personal touch, allowing you to elevate the experience by adding a medley of toppings. Try topping with sesame seeds, or raisins.
Easy and Uses Simple Ingredients: this recipe uses uncomplicated ingredients and an approachable method, making it perfect for both novice and seasoned bakers. While the process is straightforward, it may require a touch of patience for those new to crafting challah.
Nourish Your Soul: This isn't just about creating bread – it's a spiritual journey that connects you to generations before, filling your home with a sense of tradition and heartfelt intention.
Warm Water, White Sugar, Active Dry Yeast, Neutral Oil, Challah Flour, Salt
Warm Water - The ideal temperature for the water is between 105°F and 115°F (40°C to 46°C). This range provides the perfect environment for yeast activation, ensuring a successful rise of your dough.
Dry Yeast: Dry yeast offers convenience and consistency. Its uniform quality ensures predictable results, making it an ideal choice for both novice and experienced bakers.
Neutral Oil: Choose a neutral-flavored oil such as avocado, canola or vegetable oil. These oils won't overpower the taste. Avoid using olive oil to maintain the authentic flavor.
Flour: The type of flour you use significantly impacts the final texture of your challah. I recommend using any 5lb brown bag challah flour. A high gluten bread flour can also yield excellent results if the designated brand is unavailable.
Salt Choice: Opt for kosher salt to harmonize with the dough's texture and enhance its overall flavor.
Egg/Vegan-Friendly Adaptation: To make this recipe vegan, you can replace the egg wash with alternatives like plant-based milk or melted vegan butter. This modification maintains the bread's appeal and makes the recipe completely vegan!
My favorite mixer:
I rely on my Bosch Universal Plus Mixer for crafting the perfect challah dough. This mixer shines when handling sizable batch doughs, effortlessly incorporating the ingredients to create a consistent and well-kneaded result.
Unlike some standard mixers, such as the KitchenAid, which struggle with larger quantities of dough, the Bosch Universal Plus Mixer has a powerful motor and spacious bowl, allowing it to tackle the substantial dough in this recipe without a hitch.
However, fear not if you lack a powerful mixer – this recipe can also be mastered with kneading by hand! Check out my blog post on how to knead this dough by hand!
How to make Challah Step By Step:
Step 1: Add warm water to your mixer.
Step 2:Mix in sugar until dissolved.
Step 3:Add your yeast.
Step 4:Cover and let the yeast develop for 10 minutes.
Step 5 :Add the oil and mix.
Step 6: Add your flour to the bowl
Step 7:Add your salt to the challah flour and add the flour to your machine or bowl.
Step 8: Knead: 5-7 mins with a machine, 10 mins by hand.
Step 9 :Cover the dough with a towel
Step 10: let dough rise for 45 mins - 1 hour in a warm place.
Step 11 :Once the dough has risen make the bracha for challah.
Step 12: Split the dough. this dough makes 4 large challahs, 6 medium challahs, and 12 small challahs. (Medium pictured)
Step 13: Place braided dough in a challah tin (I use these oval aluminum pans) and let the dough have a secondary rise for 35-45 mins. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
Step 14: Beat the egg and egg wash the challah. Add your favorite toppings. (Learn how to make my sweet crumb topping ) You can use sesame seeds, garlic and herbs, raisins, and even chocolate chips!
Step 15: Bake for 30-45 mins until golden brown.
My Bobbe’s (Grandmother's) Expert Tips and Tricks:
- Perfect Warm Water: To achieve the ideal water temperature by combining 2 ½ cups of cold water with 2 ½ cups of boiling hot water. This will ensure consistent results every time.
- Sugar Integration: Begin by adding sugar, followed by the boiling hot water. Mix to dissolve the sugar before incorporating the cold water, allowing for the sugar to perfectly dissolve before adding the yeast.
- Yeast Development: Opt for a heaping tablespoon of yeast, and allow it to fully develop for a robust 10 minutes before introducing oil and flour. This enhances the yeast's effectiveness.
- Salt: Mixing the salt into the challah flour before adding it to the wet ingredients is essential. This prevents potential disruption to the delicate yeast development. Yeast plays a crucial role in fermentation and dough rising, but direct contact with salt can hinder its activity. By combining salt with flour, you ensure the yeast thrives, resulting in well-risen, flavorful Challah.
Frequently Asked Challah Questions
A: Challah is a traditional Jewish bread with a rich history and cultural significance. It's characterized by its beautifully braided appearance and slightly sweet, tender interior. Challah holds special importance in Jewish rituals, often enjoyed during Shabbat and holidays. Jewish people have the Mitzvah (commandment) of cut off a bit of their challah dough, make a blessing and burn it in the oven.
A: Using bread flour is recommended for making challah. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which results in a stronger gluten structure. This helps the dough hold its shape during the braiding process and gives the final challah a desirable texture – soft and airy on the inside, with a slightly chewy crust.
A: Yes, this challah recipe can be made vegan with just one adjustment. You can replace the egg wash with a vegan milk or melted vegan butter for a glossy finish.
A: Yes, this dough can be frozen for future use. After the dough has risen and been shaped into loaves, you can freeze the loaves before the final rise. When ready to bake, allow the frozen dough to thaw and rise in the refrigerator overnight. Baking the challah from its frozen state allows the yeast to develop slowly, enhancing flavor and texture. Alternatively, you can also freeze fully baked challah and reheat it in the oven for a freshly baked taste. Personally I prefer to bake the challah and then freeze it right after this method is more successful for me .
Try these dips for your Challah Bread:
Classic Challah Recipe
- 1 Bosch Mixer optional
- 5 Cups of Warm Water*
- 1 ¼ cup white granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoon Active Dry Yeast*
- 1 ¼ cup neutral oil such as avocado oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 5 lb Challah Flour High Gluten Bread Flour
- 1 egg beaten for egg wash
- Begin by adding warm water to your mixer. Be sure the water is between 105°F and 115°F. I recommend using 2 ½ cups cold water and 2 ½ cups boiling hot water.
- Slowly incorporate the sugar, mixing until it fully dissolves, about 30 seconds.
- Introduce the yeast to the mixture. Give it a quick mix just until combined.
- Cover the mixture and let it develop for a patient 10 minutes, allowing the yeast to activate and flourish.
- Mix the oil until it is well combined.
- pour the the salt into the flour and mix.
- Incorporate the challah flour, kneading the dough for 5-7 minutes if using a machine, or up to 10 minutes if kneading by hand. This step promotes gluten formation and dough elasticity.
- Place the dough into a bowl and cover with a towel, placing it in a warm spot to rise for approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
- Once the dough has risen you can punch it down. If you would like to recite the bracha (prayer on challah), remove a small piece of dough at this point and recite the bracha.
- Braid you challah dough. This recipe makes either 4 large challahs, 6 medium challahs, or 12 small challahs.
- Transfer the braided dough to a challah tin, allowing it to rise, for an additional 35-45 minutes. The dough's expansion is a sign of a well-risen bread.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C), preparing for the final baking stage.
- Beat an egg to create an egg wash, which gives the Challah its characteristic glossy finish.
- Gently brush the egg wash over the Challah's surface, enhancing its golden color during baking.
- Before baking, get creative and add your favorite toppings to personalize your Challah. From sweet crumbs to everything bagel spice, the choice is yours. (Check out my sweet crumb recipe!)
- Bake for 30-45 minutes until the challah bread is beautifully golden top and a lightly golden bottom.