I have been making Challah almost weekly since I got married over 25 years ago. It’s not something I find difficult because I prepare the dough in the bread maker and all I have to do is measure out the ingredients and press a button.
For years people have been asking if they can prepare the same recipe by hand, and the answer has always been that I don’t actually know as I had not tried it. At one point, I developed the recipe for the stand mixer as I was making a giant batch of Apple Challah for the holidays and could not afford to wait 2 hours for each double batch to be ready.
I continued to be asked for a ‘by hand’ recipe and I truthfully never set aside the time to test it out…until recently, when I was asked to lead a Challah Bake benefit in my community. I got busy testing methods that used various types of yeasts, some that involved proofing the yeast and others where the yeast was not proofed (instant yeast does not require proofing), and I was able to develop the method / recipe to yield the same delicious challah that I have been preparing for years using my bread machine (or Stand Mixer) but without having to involve any machines.
What surprised me most was actually how EASY it was to prepare. The kneading was not excessive- there was no need for lengthy rise times, and the end product was not only delicious but had that perfect texture that makes challah just begging to be pulled apart. If you know, you know 😉
- Note for a VEGAN-FRIENDLY, plant-based version of the recipe, substitute 6 Tbsp. Aquafaba for the 2 beaten eggs. Aquafaba is the liquid that you drain out from canned chickpeas. Drain into a mason jar and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week to use as an egg replacement. 3 Tbsp is the equivalent of 1 egg
A fabulous bonus that I learned about my recipe that I have been using for years is that it turns out that my recipe is a lower-fat, lower-sugar recipe compared to many challah recipes out there!!! Who knew?
Without further ado, here is my recipe and method. This recipe is for a double-batch of dough which yields 2 large loaves (or multiple smaller loaves, 20-24 challah rolls or knots)
2 ½ tsp yeast
5 c. flour (plus a bit extra, if needed)
2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ c. warm water
For the egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1-2 Tbsp water
- Sesame seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Everything Bagel Seasoning
Step 1: Proofing the Yeast
- Place the warm water in a small/medium bowl
- Stir in the sugar
- Sprinkle the yeast on top
- Let stand until bubbly (10-15 minutes)
Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Step 3: Dry ingredients
- In a very large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and salt, form a small well in the center of the bowl.
Step 4: Eggs
- Beat the 2 eggs together in a small bowl
Step 5: Dough (once the yeast is bubbling/frothy)
- Add the oil, beaten eggs and yeast mixture to the well in the center of the flour
- Mix together with a wooden spoon until a ball begins to form.
- Once it is difficult to mix with the wooden spoon, continue to mix together with your hands.
- Once you have formed a ball of dough, knead the dough until it has a smooth and elastic texture. If needed add flour but very little at a time.
- Once you have reached the desired texture, place the dough back in the bowl and cover.
- Set in a warm place to rest 10-20 minutes. (Note that your dough ball is NOT expected to rise at this time, simply to rest. It may appear somewhat larger in size which is normal, but you are not looking for the ‘doubling in size’ that you may see in other recipes)
Step 6: Shape the Challah as desired
- divide the dough in two halves
- divide each half into 3 equal pieces
- shape each of those smaller pieces into a long strand (I keep mine thicker in the middle and tapered off at the ends, but this is not necessary)
- braid each set of three strands into one challah, yielding two challahs
- You can watch a video of me shaping my challah by clicking here (the post where I share my bread machine dough recipe)
Step 7: Rising
- Place the challah on a parchment-lined cookie sheet
- Cover with a tea towel
- Allow to rise in a warm place 20-30 minutes ( Note your challah may b=not double in size, but it will continue to rise in the oven)
Step 8: Egg wash and topping
- In a small bowl mix together egg yolk and 1-2 Tbsp water to form an egg wash
- With a pastry brush, brush the wash over the entire surface of the challah
- Sprinkle with your favourite topping
Step 9: Bake the Challah
- Place challah in a pre-heated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until desired shade of golden brown
Step 10: Allow to cool
NOTES ON FREEZING
- Fully baked Challah can be frozen and then thawed at room temperature. I recommend popping it into a warm oven for a few minutes before serving to take out any excess moisture built-up in the freezer, but this is optional.
- Challah dough can be shaped (as in Step 6 above), placed on a parchment and frozen. Thaw at room temperature and then begin the process from Step 7. While the challah will still have an excellent taste and texture, I find that it can sometimes yield a bit of a ‘flatter’ challah, so my preference when freezing is necessary, is to freeze a fully-baked challah.