Tuesday, December 3, 2013

TWD: Challah

Challah! It's what we've all been baking up for this week's edition of Tuesdays with Dorie. I have gone on and on many a time about my love for Challah and how it is my favorite yeast bread in the whole wide world. I have a favorite recipe that I make over and over, but I am always up for trying a new recipe for it. Plus, it's a bread that the whole family looks forward to eating. This was baking in the oven when Paul came home from work and breathed in the unmistakable aroma of freshly baked bread. He immediately galloped into the kitchen and excitedly asked: "Are you making challah?"

Then he got out the butter (his favorite condiment) to soften. See? Everyone in this household enjoys a slice (or five) of challah!

My standard challah recipe calls for oil instead of butter and a touch more sugar. It's soft, sweet, and pretty much challah perfection in my opinion. However, I thought this recipe came pretty close to matching it in taste and texture. Overall, I thought this version was a bit more time consuming than my standard challah, the hardest part being all the waiting time between rises - it seemed like forever until we could pull a fresh loaf out of the oven. The texture of this bread is soft and almost pillowy, the taste is buttery and slightly sweet, and it was the perfect accompaniment to our dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers (I think we're only about halfway through our leftover stuffing, turkey, and mashed potatoes...did we make too much this year?).

This is an excellent recipe. I urge you to give it a try and perhaps give a loaf or two away as Christmas gifts along with a jar of homemade preserves if you're super into fancy DIY gifts (it would definitely be a jar of Smucker's in my case).

adapted from Baking with Julia

For the dough:
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup tepid water (80-90 degrees)
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
6 1/2 cups (approximately) bread flour

For the egg glaze:
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Whisk the yeast into the tepid water. Add a pinch of sugar and let rest for about 5 minutes or until the yeast dissolves and blooms.

Meanwhile, cut the butter into small pieces and place in a saucepan with the milk. Heat until the milk is very warm and the butter is melted. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the 1/3 cup sugar, honey, and salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Take the temperature of the mixture and make sure that it is no higher than 110 degrees before proceeding with the recipe. If necessary, let it cool.

Add the creamy yeast to the milk mixture along with the eggs. Stir with a whisk to combine. Add about 5 cups of flour and, using the paddle attachment, beat with the stand mixer on low speed until very well combined. Add flour, bit by bit, until the dough begins to gather around the paddle. At this point, switch to the dough hook and gradually add additional flour as needed to make a soft dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead on medium-low for 8-10 minutes or until soft, smooth, and elastic.

Coat a large bowl with a little bit of oil. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to the bowl. Turn once to coat, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 60-90 minutes. When the dough has fully risen, deflate with your fist, cover as before, and let it rise until it doubles again, about 45 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Deflate the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two portions and return one portion back to the bowl and cover. Cut the other portion of dough into three equal pieces. Using your hands, form each piece into a 16-inch long rope. Braid the three ropes together, tucking the ends under. Transfer the braided loaf to one of the prepared baking sheets and cover with a slightly damp towel. Repeat with the second portion of dough.

Let the loaves rise at room temperature for 40 minutes or until soft, puffy, and doubled.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 375 degrees.

To make an egg glaze, whisk together the egg, yolk, and 1 tablespoon of milk or cream. Brush the tops and sides of the challah loaves with the glaze. Let the glaze set for 5 minutes, and then brush again. Reserve the remaining glaze for brushing the loaves during baking.

Bake the loaves in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. The loaves will expand and expose some of the inner dough. Brush the newly exposed dough with the reserved glaze and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes longer, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickets part of the braid registers 210 degrees.

Transfer the loaves to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing.


  1. Wow, this really looks store-bought perfect!

  2. Yours is perfect!!! Anyone would love a loaf as a gift :)

  3. Oh my goodness, that is one beautiful loaf of bread. The color is just stunning.

  4. Beautiful! And yes, there is nothing like the smell of baking bread. Butter is definitely the go to choice for me. This really would make a great gift. Wish I could make jam!

  5. I could relate to how 5 slices of fresh bread get eaten in no time :) Your challah looks gorgeous!

  6. I hadn't even thought about giving it as a gift - that's an excellent suggestion!

  7. a great looking loaf - definitely one that would look (and be) a great gift.

  8. Just beautiful!! I actually used a recipe that didn't have dairy... which is your standard recipe?

  9. Lovely looking challah! I can't wait to make this.