Classic Challah

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dairy free
Recipe photo
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: One 16" loaf, 16 servings.

Recipe photo

The inspiration for this recipe for high-rising challah comes from Lora Brody, author and long-time King Arthur friend. This deep-gold, light-textured loaf is traditionally served on the Jewish Sabbath and other holidays. During Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, its traditional braided shape is supplanted by a coil, which symbolizes the cyclical nature of the year. Read our blog about this bread, with additional photos, at Flourish.

Classic Challah

star rating (57) rate this recipe »
dairy free
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: One 16" loaf, 16 servings.
Published: 01/01/2010

Ingredients

Dough

Glaze

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

Tips from our bakers

  • For poppy seed or sesame seed challah, simply sprinkle the loaf heavily with seeds after applying the glaze.
  • For a spiralled challah, roll the dough into a 36" rope, and coil it into a lightly greased 9" cake pan. Allow it to rise till puffy, then bake as directed in the original recipe.

Directions

1) To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them, by hand, mixer, or bread machine, until you have a soft, smooth dough.

2) Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until it's puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

3) Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.

4) You may braid the challah the traditional way, into a three-strand braid. For a fancier presentation, make a four-strand braid, as follows. Divide the dough into four pieces, and shape each piece into a rough 6" log. Cover the logs with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

5) Roll each log into a 15" rope. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

6) Continue rolling the ropes til they're about 20" long; they'll shrink back to about 18" as they sit.

7) Lay the strands parallel to one another, and pinch the ends on your left together.

8) Take the rope nearest you, and move it up over the two adjoining ropes.

9) Next, move the rope back under the rope next to it. Fan the ends of the ropes out again.

10) Repeat the process, but start with the rope farthest away from you. Bring it down and across the two adjoining ropes, and then back under the rope nearest it. Continue in this fashion, alternating which side you begin with, until you've braided the whole loaf. Pinch the loose ends together, and tuck them underneath the loaf.

11) Gently pick up the loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

12) Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let it rise till it's very puffy, 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.

13) Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water, and brush this glaze over the risen loaf.

14) Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will insulate the bread's bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes.

15) Tent the challah loosely with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 25 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.

16) Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.

Reviews

1 23456  All  
  • star rating 03/13/2015
  • Cooker613 from Denver
  • Try doing a six-braid. There are theological reasons for this and for seeds. The six braids twice represents the 12 tribes of the Jewish people and the seeds represent the manna that fed the Jewish people in the desert for 40 years.
  • star rating 01/17/2015
  • Nancy from
  • My daughter and I just made this and we LOVE it! I did add 1 cup water (instead of 1/2 cup) baked it on 2 cookie sheets with a silpat for 20 minutes then added the aluminum tent for 15 and it was perfect :) Thanks for the recipe and for all of the helpful comments!
  • star rating 01/05/2015
  • from Oregon
  • With all due respect for the effort put into this posting, it does not work the way the ingredients are given. It simply needs more liquids or less flour, but 4 cups of flour to 1/2 cup of water does not do the math. Your climate and kitchen may affect the hydration of the dough. Feel free to add a few extra tablespoons of water if needed. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF
  • star rating 12/28/2014
  • from
  • star rating 12/25/2014
  • Sarah from New Hampshire
  • This is my first go at challah bread, and on the whole I'd call it a success. The bread looked great, was relatively easy to make, and very tasty. I only had two problems with the recipe, which some other reviewers have also noted: the liquid to flour ratio seems off. I was only able to get in about 3 1/3 cups flour. Also, I baked it for about forty minutes, and that felt like maybe five minutes too long, as the bread was slightly dry. The bottom of the loaf, though, didn't brown too much. Many thanks for the two-baking-sheet tip. Merry Christmas!
  • star rating 12/24/2014
  • Kelly from Palm Beach Gardens, FL
  • Delicious! So easy to make. The braid turned out perfect. After the first 20 minutes I put the tent on and turned the oven down to 350 and baked for another 22 minutes. I ate two pieces straight out of the oven!
  • star rating 12/13/2014
  • Elena from Illinois
  • This is an easy, forgiving recipe. Goes together in a jiffy. I've used water or milk or both, any kind of good quality oil or butter, sugar, honey, or even maple syrup and I've doubled the recipe easily using my standing mixer. I prefer a four strand braid. Gorgeous, and never fails to impress. This makes a beautiful, tasty, moist loaf. Everyone in the family loves it and one loaf disappears in a heartbeat. So I always double this recipe.
  • star rating 11/06/2014
  • Jim from White Plains, NY
  • I read the comments before baking the loaf and I'm glad I did. Concerned about the bottom being too dark, I placed the risen loaf on parchment paper, placed a silicone baking mat beneath it and placed the entire assembly on a baking sheet set inside another baking sheet. I also checked the loaf after 25 minutes and the internal temperature was 210F so I removed it from the oven. The loaf rose beautifully and tasted superb. I will definitely be baking this recipe again.
  • star rating 10/20/2014
  • Lenka from United Kingdom
  • This is an awesome recipe, the flavour is just amazing. I make the dough in bread maker and it's hard to believe such amazing bread is so easy to make. My only point was that I had to double the amount of water in the recipe for the dough to be just right (1 cup of water on 4 cups of flour). Otherwise it's perfect.
  • star rating 09/25/2014
  • LisaC from Akron, OH
  • Made this yesterday. My first challah - not bad for a Catholic girl. The flavor was dreamy, and it wasn't hard to make. My only problem was that the bottom was too brown, even after baking under 40 minutes. Question, would putting the oven rack higher help this? Or, would the fact that my loaf ended up a little longer and narrower (vs. shorter and plumper) have made a difference? I'll be making it again. THANKS!
    You might have some better luck by using double sheet pans under the bread. It adds a layer of air to insulate it from the direct bottom heat of the oven. Happy baking!Laurie@KAF
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