My mom is the best challah baker out there. Seriously, her braids are perfect every time, the bread itself is chewy and flavorful, with the perfect texture and a beautiful crumb. I have never made challah before, because I usually leave that feat to her! But this time, with the inspiration of King Arthur Flour's January Bake Along recipe, I decided to do just that, bake along with my momma.
Challah is an eggy Jewish bread traditionally made for celebrations or for the Sabbath. It can be made with olive oil or vegetable oil, in three braids, or more. It's a little sweet from honey yet salty from kosher salt. It's delicious on it's own, with butter, oil, as a sandwich, dunked in stew, or coated in custard for french toast. It's an incredible recipe to have in your repertoire.
So under the masterful eye of Dawnie, whipped this bread up just in time for dinner.
I used half olive oil in place of half of the vegetable oil. It gives the bread a delicate pale yellow color, and scents it just beautifully. The olive oil taste is light and brightens up the flavor of the crust. I definitely want to make it completely with olive oil next time. I would also love to try using different kinds of honey, like clover or even blackberry. Stay tuned.
Olive Oil Challah
For the bread...
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil, vegetable or canola
- 3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
For the glaze...
- 1 egg, well beaten
- Kosher salt
Combine all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl. You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, or mix the ingredients by hand, like I did.Mix until the dough is soft and smooth. Wrap the bowl in plastic and set it aside to rise for 2 hours. It will puff up, but it might not double in size. That's okay!
Carefully deflate the dough, and transfer it to a greased work surface. Don't use flour, it will make the dough dry and hard to work with! Divide the dough into pieces, depending on how many strands you want for your braid. I made a three-braid bread, but you can make a six-braid bread. Roll each piece into a 20 inch long rope and braid your bread. Gently lift your loaf and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly cover the bread with plastic wrap and let it rise until puffy, about 90 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375º. Whisk an egg with a bit of water, and brush the top of the bread gently. Sprinkle the top with kosher salt and bake for 20 minutes, or a little longer, until the bread is deeply golden. Once it's reached the desired color, tent it with aluminum foil and bake it for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a thermometer registers the inside at 190º. Cool, slice, and enjoy!
Store extra challah in the refrigerator tightly wrapped in foil for a couple of days, up to 5, or freeze it for longer.
Whether you make it with three or six braids, your challah will definitely draw a crowd. If you do happen to whip this up, challah at me and let me know how it went for you!
My name is Alexandra Jade, but you can call me Alex, or Trin. I am a Food Studies major at New York University, and a freelance photographer, journalist, and social media pro on the side. I run the instagram account @twobrunchgirls.