I’m not a huge bread baker. People say baking bread is a science and it’s one that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I LOVE bread with a passion but it doesn’t always love me back. I remember the very very first loaf of bread I baked – I did it fearlessly, not knowing much about bread baking – turned out fantastic. I still remember our friends being super impressed that it wasn’t a store bought loaf. But after that one success, many of my bread baking experiences have been fails.
That is, until now! I’ve got my bread baking mojo! Ever since baking up totoro shaped buns (recipe coming soon, for Totoro week, the last week of October!), I’ve been on a bread making roll! Get it? Roll, like a bread roll?! It’s great because our house smells amazing and there’s always fresh bread. But it’s also not great because I’m starting to resemble a loaf myself.
Anyway, I got it in my head that I wanted to bake a challah, even though I don’t really know anything about challah. I did a deep google search looking for the right recipe to make – there are a lot of them out there. I narrowed it down, texted some friends who are much better at baking bread than I and then went to town.
It started out kind of sticky and for a while I was worried but I let rise overnight and the next day it was fluffy and happy and ready for braiding. I did yet another deep google dive to find out how to braid a six-strand challah, did a bit of practice with some yarn and then went to town. I have to say, I nailed it! I felt so proud of my challah baby after it rose all gloriously poofy. I felt even better after we cut it up and ate it!
If I can challah, you can too! Do it!
makes 2 loaves
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons rapid rise yeast
- 6 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 cup flavorless vegetable or canola oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup mild honey
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- pinch of salt
very slightly adapted from Food 52
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1 cup of warm water and the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let proof for 5 minutes.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, use a wooden spoon to stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Attach the dough hook.
In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, oil, water, and honey.
Add the yeast mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir to combine. Use the dough hook and knead on low speed. Make sure all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl. The dough is quite wet, if needed, add flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Knead for 7-10 minutes, or until the dough is soft and pliable and passes the window pane test.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces, tucking into balls. Set into lightly oiled large bowls and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Rise overnight in the fridge, or at room temp until doubled, about 2 to 2.5 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Working with one ball of dough at a time, divide into 3 for a 3 strand braid or 6, for a 6 strand braid. Roll out the dough into ropes/logs, about 1 foot long.
For a 3 strand braid: Don’t pinch the tops of the logs together, just start braiding. When you reach the end, pinch the ends together, then flip your loaf over and upside down so that the top is now at the bottom. Braid and then pinch, tucking in both ends.
For a 6 strand braid: Pinch the tops of the six logs together. You want to take the outermost log, bring it over two strands, tuck it under one, and bring it over the last two. You want to repeat the pattern, taking the outermost log, going over two strands, under one, over two. Repeat until the entire loaf is braided. Pinch the ends and tuck under.
Place your braided loaf on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise, 30 minutes.
When the oven is ready, brush with egg wash again and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until golden and baked through.
Notes: I found my dough to be quite sticky but I didn’t want to over knead or add too much extra flour so I put it in the fridge overnight and the next day it turned out great! It was still on the tacky side, but easy to work with when I added a light dusting of flour.