Challah

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Challah

star rating (13) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

Challah, sometimes spelled Halla or Hallah, is pronounced Há La. This Jewish bread is served on Friday night for the Sabbath dinner, and for holidays. The Sabbath dinner is special and sacred; the best ingredients are used for this meal. Challah usually contained white flour and eggs, because this was considered "the best." However, whole wheat or a combination of whole wheat and white might be used.

Due to Jewish dietary laws, meat and dairy products are not served together. Therefore, the bread is traditionally made with water rather than milk, so it may be served with meat meals. The Friday night Challah is more than likely braided. It can be braided as fancy as its creator wants. The New Year's Challah is round, but others for the holiday can be round or braided.

a generous 2 tablespoons (three 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 large eggs, room temperature
6 1/2 cups (approx.) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, for glaze
1 tablespoon cold water, for glaze
poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

In a small bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. In another bowl, cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add softened yeast and 4 cups flour. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. This is a sponge which has the consistency of cake batter rather than a bread dough. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise for 30 minutes; it should be light and full of tiny bubbles.

Stir the sponge to deflate it, add salt and enough flour, a little at a time, to make a kneadable dough. Turn out onto a floured surface.

Knead, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put dough into an oiled bowl, turning once to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide into thirds. Shape each third into a rope about 20 inches long. Lay the ropes side by side on a well-greased baking sheet. Begin braiding in the center for a more balanced loaf.

Place right rope over the center rope (right rope is now the center rope), then the left over the center, right over center, etc., continuing until the ropes are too short to braid. Pinch ends together and tuck under.

To braid the other end of the loaf, turn it so the braided portion is at the top and the ropes are at the bottom. Take the center rope and lay it over the right rope (right rope now is the center), center rope over the left, until the ends are too short to braid. Pinch ends together and tuck under. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

Beat egg with cold water to make an egg glaze. Brush egg glaze lightly over braid. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if desired.

Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the braid reaches 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately remove loaf from baking sheet and cool on a rack to prevent crust from becoming soggy. Makes 1 large braid.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 2, December, 1991 issue.

Reviews

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  • star rating 01/24/2014
  • member-mysaanan20031 from KAF Community
  • Love this bread! Very easy to make however I do recommend making two loaves unless you have a large oven. The finished loaf was 25" long by 8" across. I baked it on a diagonal on a cookie sheet-it still hung over a bit so I laid some aluminum foil on the rack so it wouldn't ooze through. I was concerned that some would be wasted due to the large size but it was almost gone by the third day so I used the remainder for a bread pudding. It was the BEST bread pudding I have ever made! The taste and texture is reminiscent of our fall river Portuguese sweet bread. Light and airy-makes great toast! Make this, you won't be disappointed!
  • star rating 02/11/2013
  • Nikki from Chicago
  • I'll start by saying that I don't have much experience baking, and the few times I've tried yeast breads they have failed miserably... not rising enough, being dense and crusty even if I followed the recipe exactly. Since discovering the gold mine of KAF recipes and finding every single one I tried to turn out wonderfully, I figured I'd try a yeast bread. Wow. This bread has the look, taste, and texture of something I'd buy at a good bakery! I couldn't be more pleased with the result. I do have a few comments, though. First, sometimes the recipe describes what the dough should look like, and I found a couple of these descriptions to be quite different from what I saw in my own mixing bowl. For example, adding the eggs to the creamed shortening and sugar did not result in anything fluffy for me.. it was very watery and the shortening didn't incorporate completely into the egg (maybe I didn't beat enough, as I was mixing by hand). Second, the oil you use during the final rise can really affect the flavor. There are plenty of mild oils out there (canola, safflower, etc.), but I made the mistake of using sesame oil which gave a very strong nutty/smoky flavor to the bread. Third, I used bread flour instead of AP, so the consistency of my dough after the first addition of flour was not like a cake batter but already felt like a bread dough. Finally, for those of you with convection ovens, I convect baked at 350 for 25-30 minutes (I think it was 27 to be exact) and it was perfectly done. Thanks for another winning recipe, KAF!
    We're proud of your efforts, Nikki. Please know that along the journey of recipes in your home kitchen, you can use our Baker's Banter or blog as a resource (it's like baking with your best friend at your elbow) or call our Baker's Hotline before, during or after the recipe. Irene@KAF
  • star rating 10/18/2012
  • Deanna from Tennessee
  • I have made many types of bread over the years but this particular recipe has settled in as my all time favorite. The look of a braided loaf of bread is spectacular and the taste of this recipe is amazing. I have experimented with dried fruits and spices (cardamom) and adding cream to the mix which gives it a richer texture. The basic recipe is so easy to work with that I've seldom had a loaf not turn out beautifully.
  • star rating 04/24/2012
  • Sandy from Englewood, FL
  • This is my favorite Challah recipe. I always make two loaves instead of one large loaf. It always turns out beautifully. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes when baking two loaves. Delicious!
  • star rating 03/23/2011
  • Kate from Gray Havens
  • Absolutely awesome honkin' challah! Y'all need to warn folks that they might need a Viking oven or barbecue to fit this big baby in. I had enough to celebrate the Spring Equinox with neighbors on both sides.! Looking forward to french toast, shortly. Blessed Bee, y'all!
  • star rating 12/28/2010
  • Renee from Ohio
  • A wonderful recipe. I made a few loaves to use in a french toast recipe for Christmas morning breakfast. I used KAF bread flour and it turned out wonderful. Gave a few loaves away as gifts.
  • star rating 11/17/2010
  • pmsakamoto from KAF Community
  • This recipe produces a big and beautiful challah. The texture is more dense than I would like, but it didn't prevent me or my family from eating it as soon as it cooled. Also, I took note from other reviewers that the yeast amount is off and I used the equivalent of three 1/4 oz packets which made the bread VERY yeasty tasting. My kids said it tasted like alcohol which might be a benefit to some. Additionally, I used more flour than the recipe called for. I'd say at least a cup and a half more to get the dough not to stick.
  • star rating 06/15/2010
  • lde from Oregon
  • Delicious! Makes great French toast!
  • star rating 05/30/2010
  • Ruth Ingram from Asheville, NC
  • I have tried out several King Arthur Flour recipes and they all have been great! I just made the Challah bread and it looks like it will be delicious - I have not cut into it yet but it smells wonderful. I think next time I will do 2 small challah loaves - this one is HUGE!!!!
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