How to Braid and Bake Challah Bread

After resisting the lure of stylized pictures and cute frames for several months, I finally caved and downloaded Instagram a couple weeks ago. Honestly, I spent most of those months thinking it was weird how some people use it to take pictures of literally everything they eat. Once I got the app, I started looking at my food through the Instagram lenses and began to understand the obsession. Somehow even the simplest meal takes on a new sheen with the rounded edges of an old photograph, the dusty warmth of one filter, or the super-saturated intensity of another. What I’m trying to say is…get ready for some Insta-Foodie illustration today.

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Since my friend Dara shared a shabbat in Israel menu on Monday, I thought I’d contribute a simple recipe for homemade challah bread. As I grew up eating challah simply because it tastes delicious and not as part of my religion, the fact that this recipe contains butter doesn’t bother me. The menu Dara prepared includes meat, so if you keep kosher and want to make this bread for your own shabbat, you should be able to substitute margarine or olive oil in place of the dairy.

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I made this challah as a welcome gift for new neighbors and housemates. Whenever I want a simple but impressive bread recipe for such an occasion, I turn to The Frugal Girl. She gives simple, step-by-step instructions illustrated with clear photographs and patient explanation.

Challah can be braided in many different ways- round loaves, two stacked braids, four-strand or six-strand braids…I included a link to a YouTube video of a woman demonstrating how to make a six-strand braid. While it takes just a bit of concentration, this method results in lovely loaves to share.

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Challah Breadmakes two loaves
From The Frugal Girl with adjustments
Active Prep Time: about 50 minutes
Inactive Prep Time (Rising): 75-105 minutes
Baking Time: 20-25 minutes

1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 pkg. (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup melted or softened butter
5 to 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 whole eggs and 1 separated egg (yolk + white)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon water

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, pour 1 cup warm water and add yeast. Stir until dissolved, then add sugar, salt, butter, and 1 1/2 cups of flour. Blend well, then add three whole eggs and one egg white. Save the yolk to make the egg wash. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Oil a mixing bowl and place dough inside. Cover with a cloth tea towel and let rise for 45-60 minutes or until doubled.

Punch down dough and again turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces (each piece will be one loaf.) Divide each piece into six equally sized balls. Gently stretch and roll each piece into a thin tube of about 12-16 inches long. Learn how to braid six-strand challah by watching this video. There are many others ways to bake including an easier method on The Frugal Girl- it’s up to you! Place braided challah loaves on an ungreased cookie sheet, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes or until doubled. Start preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit at some point during this rise.

In a small bowl, beat reserved egg yolk with water and brush over loaves. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden browned. Let cool on wire racks.

About Alicia Jay

I'm a radical homemaker, container gardener, and cheerful cook.
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One Response to How to Braid and Bake Challah Bread

  1. Steev says:

    Sounds good to me–when my mother in law wcathed my kids while Andrew and I took a cruise last fall she had them doing all the ritual Shabbat things before their Friday night dinner. They told me later that they were a little impatient to get through the prayers and into their pizza–it wasn’t quite a traditional meal obviously 🙂 I guess they’re not ready to convert yet.

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