I had a great challah recipe and I used it all the time when I lived in St. Louis and Chicago.
Then I moved to D.C. and realized that I didn’t understand the recipe that I had written down. I don’t know what happened, but suddenly the directions were unclear. One egg, or two? Should I really add three teaspoons of yeast? Still, I tried to use it and it ended in two epic failures.
So this time around, I decided to go with a different recipe from The Kitchn, one of my favorite cooking websites. This one called for less yeast and more eggs, which seemed to make more sense. The recipe I used before created dough that was too tough, probably from having too much yeast.
This recipe also gave directions for how to knead the dough with a dough hook. I’m lucky that I have a Kitchen Aid mixer that can do some of the heavy lifting; In the past, I used to do it all by hand.
I still think there’s something to be said for kneading the dough by hand. But if you have a dough hook, you should definitely use it. You can make a cup of tea while the hook spins around in the mixer, make your bed, or do whatever you need to do.
Once the dough looked smooth and round, I took it out of the mixing bowl and let it rise in a greased bowl. Then I braided it and let it rise again. I always forget this step and I usually put the loaf in the oven, and then remember and run and take it out.
Right before you put the loaf in the oven, you can brush it with a beaten egg so it gets a nice, glossy brown sheen on the outside. Turn the loaf once while it’s in the oven to make sure that it bakes evenly.
This challah is soft, pillowy and eggy–everything that I love in a challah. I think this will be my new go-to recipe. Next time I might add some golden raisins.
If you have leftover challah, it makes for delicious French toast and Nutella paninis.
Here’s a good track for challah baking.
Challah (from The Kitchn)
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water
4 to 4 1/2 cups (20 to 22 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) neutral-flavored vegetable oil
Standing mixer (optional)
Large mixing bowl
Bench scraper or sharp knife
Dissolve the yeast: Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a small bowl, and add a healthy pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let stand until you see a thin frothy layer across the top. This means that the yeast is active and ready to use. (If you do not see this or if your yeast won’t dissolve, it has likely expired and you’ll need to purchase new yeast.)
Mix the dry ingredients: Whisk together 4 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand).
Add the eggs, yolk, and oil: Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs, egg yolk, and oil. Whisk these together to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
Mix to form a shaggy dough: Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix the yeast, eggs, and flour with a long-handled spoon until you form a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix.
Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes: With a dough hook attachment, knead the dough on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.) If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.
Let the dough rise until doubled: Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place somewhere warm. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Separate the dough and roll into ropes: Separate the dough into three or six equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you’d like to do. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope roughly 1-inch thick and 16 inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and then try again.
Braid the dough: Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. If making a 3-stranded challah, braid the ropes together like braiding hair or yarn and squeeze the ends together when complete. If making a 6-stranded challah, the directions are below.
Let the challah rise: Line a baking sheet with parchment and lift the loaf on top. Sprinkle the loaf with a little flour and drape it with a clean dishcloth. Place the pan somewhere warm and away from drafts and let it rise until puffed and pillowy, about an hour.
Brush the challah with egg white: About 20 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 350°F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.
Bake the challah: Slide the challah on its baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. The challah is done when it is deeply browned and registers 190°F in the very middle with an instant-read thermometer.
Cool the challah: Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm. Slice and eat.