June 15th, 2008

how to make braided challah

challah 1

a.k.a challah atcha girl, a.k.a challah like it’s hot.

it’s no fun to bake when it’s hot out. and right now, we’re being subjected to some ungodly death-heat that’s driving temperatures (at least here in dc) up around 110 F. but i don’t like to let anything stop me from baking, so i am forging ahead. sure, with the oven on, my kitchen might hit something like 125 F but it’s totally worth it for delicious baked goods…

challah 4

challah is the first yeast bread i ever made, and it’s pretty special to me because taking those loaves out of the oven the first time really opened up a world of new possibilities for me. like many, i was afraid of using yeast the first time. and again, like many, it was a girl that actually gave me the confidence to face my fear. my intention was to impress the girl for rosh hashanah (she is jewish and i am not, it would be my first rosh hashanah). i didn’t actually expect the bread to come out looking good, but when it did, my heart skipped a beat. then, when it actually tasted good, it was like the flood gates had opened.

challah egg wash

completing my first yeast bread gave me a rush and an incredible desire to take on every recipe i saw. i had tackled something that i considered way over my head and come out victorious. i was let in on the secret that anyone can bake anything – all you’ve got to do is try.

challah 2

now let’s get back to the challah – the bread is soft and inviting, good for any meal. in fact, after baking, i always leave one loaf for eating and freeze the other so the girl can make bread pudding later. and this time, half of the the loaf for straight up eating is going to become french toast. i’ve made the simpler three braid challah here – there are step by step photo instructions below.

challah 3

challah egg wash 2

from Joan Nathan’s “My Favorite Challah” – The New York Times. makes 2 loaves. you can use a mixer for the kneading process, but i think it’s definitely worth it to knead by hand.

1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 eggs
1 Tbsp salt
8 1/2 cups flour
poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling

1. dissolve yeast and 1 Tbsp sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.

2. whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, along with remaining sugar and salt. gradually add flour. when dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.

3. turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. place dough in a well greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for one hour. another trick is to warm the oven to about 150 F as you are mixing the dough, turn off the oven when you are ready for the rise, and place the bowl in the open warmed oven.

4. after dough has about doubled, punch it down, cover and let rise for another half hour in a warm place.

5. punch down dough and braid into your desired shape. here’s a quick tutorial on braiding challah:

how to braid challah

when you get to step 9, just tuck the ends of the dough under itself. it doesn’t quite matter if your braids don’t look even or perfect; when the dough rises before baking, those imperfections will disappear.

6. beat the remaining egg and brush it on the loaves. at this point, you can freeze the loaves to bake later, or let them rise for another hour if you’re going to bake now.

7. as the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 F and brush the loaves with egg again. sprinkle seeds on your loaves as desired.

8. bake in the middle of the oven (on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper if you have it) for 35-50 minutes. the loaves should be golden. i also put some water in an oven proof bowl at the bottom of the oven to help create steam and keep the loaves from drying out as they bake.

39 Comments for how to make braided challah - why not leave some love?

  1. Rosa says:

    Beautiful! I really love that bread!



  2. RecipeGirl says:

    Pete- this is great. Love the step-by-step, and the challah turned out great. When I was younger I worked at a Jewish school where every Friday we took home a loaf of challah from the local bakery. This looks much better! I would be willing to try it myself 🙂

  3. Meryl says:

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful post! I went to the store the other day and a single loaf of challah was almost $7.00. I thought to myself that I would have to find a good recipe. I also love the pictures you posted on how to braid it properly.

  4. Happy Cook says:

    Wow this challah looks great.
    Came here through Food Gawker.
    I am gonna make this in winter. Looks DELICIOUS

  5. Hillary says:

    Thank you for the step by step photos! So helpful! I love fresh baked challah on Friday nights…nothing yummier.

  6. kilobytesprite says:

    I rather enjoy that I’m not the only one that does that play on words with challah (“Gonna make a bread to make you challah, Mack!”). Thanks for the great pictures of the braiding.

  7. Y says:

    What a gorgeous looking bread. So glossy!

  8. […] Recipe and photo thanks to Pete of Pete Bakes.  Thanks! […]

  9. GirlCanBake says:

    Hi Pete-
    I loved this post so much! I featured it on my blog. Your photographs are great and I love your writing voice. Go you!

  10. Zach says:

    This is BEAUTIFUL! And I love the braiding tutorial!

  11. bunny says:

    that is absolutely the best looking bread l’ve ever seen!

  12. Naama says:

    Your challa looks really shiny and great, well done!

  13. mary says:

    This is inspiring. Thanks for the how to!

  14. In Bulgaria we call it “kozunak”. The recipe is a bit different and several hundred years old. It is usually prepared on Easter.

  15. This is gorgeous! Great post, can’t wait for Friday.

  16. Micha says:

    Yum! I love Challah! Great idea to make 2 loaves and freeze one for bread pudding later! We have a bread pudding recipe we love to make with challah, but can rarely restrain ourselves so there is enough bread leftover to do it!

  17. Olga says:

    Funny: I just ate challah at a friend’s brunch this past Saturday and thought I should bake one myself.

    I’ve only made it once, but it was a lot of fun and I added raisins into mine.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  18. Shannalee says:

    I laughed out loud when I read “challah atcha girl.” HA! I first made challah this past winter, bringing it to work for one of our old Potluck Thursdays. It was so delicious! And what I love is how impressive it looks, you know?

  19. Phyllis says:

    I will certainly try your recipe–love to bake anfd enyoy making bread.—Thanks!!

  20. Larissa says:

    Pete, this looks lovely! I adore challah, and am now inspired to make my own.

  21. Ansa says:

    Thanks for this Pete! I am now baking this every week, we love it that much. Great recipe.

  22. What says:

    Got started on the baking thing by stumbling on the various soft pretzel recipes floating around. They worked out great, so i decided to try this–my first attempt at baking proper bread. It turned out great, just like the pictures. I’m not exactly sure what to do with the surplus now, but i think french toast might be on the menu tomorrow morning.

  23. caleb says:

    hey, i’ve just discovered your site and i’m absolutely loving it.

    however, i have to point out that your plait technique isn’t right. in image 5 it should be 3 over 2, not 1 over 2.

  24. Clara Bielecki says:

    I have always made a fantastic six braid Challa for our bread and the centerpiece at Thanksgiving. Two years ago after taking this beauty from the oven and leaving it on the cooling rack while I dressed, My little dog somehow got on the table and ate the middle out of the loaf. I called my best friend and cohostess to tell her of the disaster. Her advice was to cut it in half, put half at each end of the table which I did and nobody ever knew the difference….’till today!

  25. annie says:

    hi pete! i love your site and have been reading for a long time. never made bread before….. i will try this one today 🙂

  26. annie says:

    also pete, if i freeze what do i do when i’m ready to bake it? do i leave it out or straight from the freezer to the oven? 🙂

    • Tabitha says:

      i’m pretty sure that you’re going to want to take it out of the freezer and let it sit out until it has risen to approx. double in size. (it will take longer than the hour he says b/c the yeast will have to wake up and start doing its thing again.) you’ll get a slight rise from the gases expanding during the cooking process, but most of the rise happens beforehand. hope that helps!

  27. Jacqueline says:

    So, this was my first bread EVER, and I made it for Christmas Dinner (risky, I know.) It turned out to be a huge success, I followed the recipe exactly (which is a miracle in itself for me). Can’t wait to try more recipes.. Thanks!

  28. jill says:

    I followed your recipe exactly, and it came out PERFECTLY! It’s about to become some dank french toast. I’m so proud of myself – thank you for sharing!

  29. Kyra Bond says:

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  30. Marzieh says:

    Hello Pete!
    Greetings from Iran!
    Yesterday I tried your apple bread recipe and it looked and tasted soooo good! Now I am going to try this recipe as the bread looks so yummy. I’m glad I found your website 🙂

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  35. Loving the website and also design, can you tell me if this is a personalized style and design or simply a common style that could be down loaded?

  36. A really great recipe, nice to just tear it up and eat warm, thanks!

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