When I left for college I was prepared to learn so many new things from my professors, work hard playing volleyball and make new friends. I was expecting new experiences like going to school with boys again for the first time since second grade, but what I was so not prepared for was learning how much of a Catholic school bubble I had been living in. I loved going to all girls Catholic school from 3rd grade to 12th grade. It was an amazing experience for me, I learned to have self confidence in my abilities and to not be afraid to express an opinion, especially in an academic setting. It helped solidify my faith and beliefs. I made amazing friends, many of who I am still friends with to this day. There will always be that clear memory of laying in the hallway of St. Joseph’s Academy during an off period, working on homework, gossiping with friends, eating snacks from the vending machine and laughing so very hard! When I got to Emory University, one of the things I didn’t realize was that the majority of the population was Jewish. My sorority was mostly Jewish and most of my roommates were also Jewish. I learned so many things about the Jewish faith, the culture and most importantly the FOOD!
My sweet roommate Wendy taught me how to make Challah our junior year of college when our apartment hosted my first ever Rosh Hashanah dinner. Everything was so yummy from the apples and honey to the brisket that Wendy worked on for days – but my very favorite thing of the night was for sure the challah. I continued to make the same recipe for years. Somewhere along the way though, pretty sure in one of our many recent moves, I lost the recipe. So the other day, I tried a different recipe. I worked on it all day, photographed it, baked it and then threw it away. It was salty and dense and terrible. I quickly texted Wendy and asked her for a replacement copy of her Challah recipe. I made it a few days later – it is just as good as I remember!!!
The ingredients for this recipe are simple – 4 cups or 480 grams of bread flour, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/4 cup of honey, 3 eggs (1 will be for the egg wash right before baking) 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast, 1 cup 110-115 F degree water. **A mildly helpful/destructive potty training toddler is an optional partner for this recipe**
To make the bread, I began by combining the flour, olive oil, salt and 1 egg (I think I should have beaten the egg first) in the bowl of my stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Then in a separate bowl I combined the yeast and warm water. **Make sure the yeast begins to bubble. If it doesn’t, then it is dead and will not work.** After a minute I added the granulated sugar and stirred them together. I let them sit for 3 – 5 minutes. Then I added one beaten egg to the mixture and stirred it together. Next, I put the mixer on low and slowly drizzled the liquid mixture over the flour mixture and let the mixer combine them. Then my helper added the honey to the bowl. I always use the same measuring cup that I measure my oil in first to make sure the honey is super easy to pour out. After all my ingredients are in the mixer, I realized that my mix needed some more flour. The dough is pretty sticky but mine was TOOO sticky. Then I turned the mixer up to medium and let it knead my dough until it was all smooth, pulled away from the sides, but still stuck to the bottom, about 6 minutes.
I pulled my sticky but smooth dough out of my mixing bowl and oiled the bowl and then the top of the dough and covered it with plastic wrap and put it in my oven on the proofing setting for 45 minutes. I pulled it out when it was soft and clearly risen. I dumped the dough out on my dough mat and folded it over itself gently a few times. Then I divided the dough into 4 equal pieces. I rolled and stretched these pieces out into 18 inch ropes. This took a couple of turns of rolling and stretching and then moving on to the next piece to give the dough a chance to rest and then going back to it to stretch it a little bit more. Next, I moved the ropes to a baking sheet covered in a silicone baking sheet (parchment would work well here too). I shaped them into a hashtag shape with alternating sides for the piece that was on top and the piece that was under. Then moving clockwise I took the pieces that were “under” the other ones and pulled them over the top of the one next to it. Then I went counterclockwise and did the same thing. I repeated back and forth until all that was left was small ends. I tucked those small ends under the loaf to make it look nice and uniform and try to avoid burnt ends.
Once the bread dough is shaped, I covered it with the same plastic wrap that I used for the bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes. While it is resting for the second rise, I preheated the oven to 325 F degrees. Once the oven is ready and the dough has rested and risen again, I brushed the dough with an egg wash made from 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water that is whisked together. Then I sprinkled a little flaky salt on top. Sprinkling the loaf with poppy seeds or sesame seeds are also traditional toppings. Then I baked the bread for 30 minutes and began checking the temperature. I was looking for an internal temperature of 190 F degrees. My loaf needed to bake for almost 50 minutes. I let the loaf cool for 10 minutes on the baking tray and then transferred it to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
I cannot tell you how happy I was with the final results of this amazing loaf of challah bread. The outside was shinny and slightly crisp but the inside is so fluffy and tender. The dough has a sweetness to it from the honey but a slight saltiness from the flaky salt topping. The shaping technique could not be any easier and it resulted in a beautiful loaf that baked up so nicely. I do feel like I lost a little definition in my baking and I think that I probably needed to knead it a little bit more much earlier in the process. If you are in the mood for a beautiful loaf of bread that is not very scary to make – this is a great option!
- 4 cups or 480 grams of bread flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup water 110 – 115 F degrees
- 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- Flaky salt, poppy seeds or sesame seeds
- In the bowl of your stand mixer add the bread flour, salt, olive oil and 1 lightly beaten egg. Mix together with a fork and set aside.
- In another small bowl add the warm water and the yeast and mix together. Leave it for 1 minute to be sure the the yeast begins to bubble. Then add the sugar and mix it together. Let it stand for 3 to 5 minutes. Then add a lightly beaten egg to the mixture.
- Add the bowl with the flour mixture back to the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Turn it on low and slowly drizzle the yeast mixture over the dough and allow it to incorporate. Then add the honey to the dough and mix. Take a second to check out your dough. If it is super super sticky, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. It should be sticky and not super weighed down with flour.
- Turn the speed up to medium and allow the dough to be kneaded for 6 – 8 minutes until it is smooth, pulls away from the sides, but still attached to the bottom and has plenty of glutton developed.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and oil the bowl with olive oil. Add the dough back and oil the top of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until it is doubled in size. 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.
- Dump the dough out on to your dough mat or floured work surface and gently fold over itself a few times to knead. Then divide it into 4 equal pieces. Roll and stretch the pieces into 4 – 18 inch ropes.
- Place the ropes onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper in a hashtag shape, alternating which side the over is on and which side the under is on.
- Starting with the pieces that are under the other pieces, moving clockwise, lay them on top of the piece next to them. Then move counterclockwise with the under pieces and lay them on top of the pieces next to them. Switch back and forth until all the pieces are combined and just small ends are left. Tuck the ends under the loaf.
- Recover the loaf with the plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place to rest and rise again – for about 30 minutes. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 325 F degrees.
- Once risen, beat together the last egg and 1 tablespoon of water and then brush it over the loaf. Top with your choice of toppings or nothing at all.
- Bake for 30 minutes and then check the temperature of the middle of the loaf and continue to bake until it reaches 190 F degrees.
- Allow the loaf to cool for 10 minutes on the pan and then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Enjoy – preferably with a big slab of butter!
Recipe adapted from CNN and Wendy Dykan