Four-Strand Braided Challah

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Four-Strand Braided Challah

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Published prior to 2008

Who among us has never heard of challah? Yet, unless you're Jewish, who among us knows even a small part of the long tradition this bread enjoys, its religious significance, or the importance attached to the various ways it's shaped? Truly, challah must be one of the world's most revered breads.

Rich with eggs and butter (or oil, to keep it kosher with a meat-based meal), shaped in various braids and coils, and often gilded with a sprinkle of poppy seeds, this bread is a Sabbath staple. Though not quite as rich, it's similar to French brioche; and, like brioche, it makes wonderful toast and French toast.

Challah is usually braided; a three-strand braid is common, but beautiful four- or six-strand braids are almost as popular. It's prepared for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah; for that occasion, challah is formed into a round coil, symbolizing the continuity of life.

Quick Starter
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) water
2 teaspoons instant yeast

All of the starter
3 1/2 cups (15 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup (2 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
2 large eggs + 1 yolk (save 1 egg white for the wash, below)

1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
poppy seeds (optional)

Starter: Mix the 1 cup flour, 1 cup water and yeast together in a large bowl or the bucket of a bread machine. Let the mixture sit for about 45 minutes. (This type of quick starter is called for in recipes that are high in sugar, in order to let the yeast get a head start. If you have Fermipan Brown or SAF Gold yeast -- both formulated especially for sweet breads -- this recipe may be prepared as a "straight dough, with all of the ingredients mixed together at once.

Dough: Add the dough ingredients to the starter and mix and knead together -- by hand, mixer or bread machine -- until a smooth, supple dough is formed. This dough is a pleasure to work with -- smooth and silky, it almost feels like you're rubbing your hands with lotion. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it over once to coat it lightly with oil. Cover it and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until it's doubled in size.

Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over once or twice, to expel the carbon dioxide. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll each into a snake about 18 inches long. On the lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan, braid a four-strand braid (see instructions below) or fashion a simpler three-strand braid.

NOTE: How To Make A Four-Strand Braid:Lay the strands side by side, and pinch them together at one end. For instruction purposes, think of the far left strand as #1, next is #2, then #3, and the far right is #4. Take the left-hand strand (#1) and move it to the right over strands #2 and #3, then tuck it back under strand #3. Take the right-hand strand (#4) and move it to the left over strands #3 and #1, then tuck it back under strand #1. Repeat this process until finished.

Make the wash by mixing together, in a small bowl, the reserved egg white, sugar, and water. Brush the loaf with this mixture, reserving some for a second wash. Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it's almost doubled in size.

Baking:Brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash (this will give the finished loaf a beautiful, shiny crust, as well as provide "glue" for the seeds), sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired, and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the challah is lightly browned. Remove it from the oven, and cool completely before slicing. Yield: 1 loaf, about 16 1-inch slices.

Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 63g): 177 cal, 4g fat, 5g protein, 25g complex carbohydrates, 4g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 40mg cholesterol, 246mg sodium, 64mg potassium, 18RE vitamin A, 2mg iron, 5mg calcium, 53mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XI, No. 6, Autumn 2000 issue.


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  • star rating 11/30/2014
  • from
  • Perfect every time I make it
  • star rating 11/26/2014
  • from
  • star rating 10/07/2014
  • Susan from Atlanta, GA
  • I have made this my "go to" challah recipe. It has never failed me and is always delicious.
  • star rating 08/06/2014
  • sandra in ca from ca
  • too runny had to add 2cups extra flour checked it 15 before timer and already vary dark.not sure what went wrong... also wish it made more then one loaf
    I'm sorry to hear of the trouble. It sounds like there may have been a measurement error perhaps. Give us a call on the hotline and we'll be happy to help troubleshoot. ~ MJ
  • star rating 05/23/2014
  • Donnamarie from Lacoochee, Florida
  • This week I ran out of unbleached white flour for this recipe & substituted about 1/2 cup KA whole wheat. I have to say it was a tremendous success. it was light & lovely, tasty. I will definitely do this again NOT out of desperation
  • star rating 04/15/2014
  • Donnamarie from Lacoochee, Florida
  • Used this recipe using KAF bread flour last week - doing it again today. Even though I had to leave the house last time, & my son took it out of the oven ~10' late, it was still really good & was not dry as I feared. Can't wait to try today's loaf! Incidentally, I did double the recipe last week & it did not have any adverse effect (maybe that's why it wasn't overdone, since I made one large braid). Thanks :)
  • star rating 12/25/2013
  • Laurence from Laguna Beach, Ca
  • Terrific recipe! And the braiding instructions are spot on.
  • star rating 11/07/2013
  • EFS from Weston, FL
  • I have been baking challah with a family recipe for years, always worried about getting the water the right temperature for the yeast to rise, proofing, etc.. It was forever a stress. On a lark I decided to try this recipe and I'm so glad I did! Retiring the family recipe and making this one our recipe from now on. I agree with the other reviewer that the starter is a game changer -- it was SO EASY! The challah came out perfect, light, with enough sweetness. My family raved. So happy I gave this a try, I will never make from another recipe again!
  • star rating 09/22/2013
  • Ritik from KAF Community
  • Very good challah bread. I did tried few different recipes, this one is the best. Crust is lovely color, dough is nice and airy, so far it is my favorite one.
  • star rating 08/30/2013
  • Mary Ann from North Beach, MD
  • This bread was wonderfully easy to make and came out beautiful. It was my first time trying challah, I was a bit nervous, but it was wonderful to work with and tastes fantastic!
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