Heavenly Challah (egg bread)

January 27, 2014

I’VE BEEN BAKING UP A STORM LATELY, preparing breads for the fourth chapter of my cookbook.  Although my editor has advised me not to post every blessed recipe online, I couldn’t resist sharing this one for Challah. Why? Because it’s too delicious not to share. And because I’m a blabbermouth.

Challah is a sweet bread, often served on the Jewish sabbath. But we certainly don’t have to wait for sundown on Friday to eat the bread. We can enjoy it at our leisure, either au natural, or topped with good honey or jam. It’s terrific for toasting, too, and, of course, it makes the most divine French toast.

You won’t need any special equipment for Challah-making. The dough is extremely easy to work with. Thus you can knead it entirely by hand, just as I do.

In a 4-cup measure or a medium bowl, dissolve one tablespoon of active dry yeast in warm water.

Note:  If you make lots of yeast breads, you should probably purchase your yeast in a jar, just as I do.  The pre-measured packets, though common, are expensive. Furthermore, they are a pain in the neck to open and empty.

After 5 minutes have passed, or when the yeast  begins to foam, whisk in  1/3 cup sugar…

3 tablespoons of good olive oil…

Some kosher salt…

And 3 large organic eggs, which were laid by happy, peppy, free-range chickens.  Beat the eggs in a small bowl before adding them to the other yeast ingredients.

Now tip 5 cups of all-purpose flour in a large bowl.

Add the yeast ingredients to the flour…

And then grab the green spoon you purchased last week at Zabars in NYC.

Use the spoon to stir the dough until it resists you. No matter how irresistible you are.

Drop the dough onto a floured surface (I used my marble board), and then knead it 50-75 times.

Please note: I made this dough at 6:15 in the morning.

Oh, the things I do for you.

Okay, I do these things for myself. But still.

Kneading is complete when the dough looks and feels smooth, and it no longer sticks to your work surface.

Quickly wash out and dry the bowl. Then grease it, baby.

Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and set it some place warm to rise.

Because I’m making this bread during winter, and because I live in a drafty old Victorian house, the only “warm spot” for dough rising here is a heating pad. You can buy this common device at any two-bit drug store. I set my pad to the “medium” setting.

When the dough has doubled in volume — this can take up to 2 hours — punch it down.  Then let it rise again until double, which this time will take only 1 hour or so.

After the second rise, deflate the dough, dump it onto your work surface, and cut it in half. Return one half to the bowl, and cut the other half into quarters.

Using your hands, roll each quarter into a 12- to 15-inch strand.

Place the 4 strands parallel to each other on your work surface…

Pinch their tips together…

And then, casting all fear aside,  braid them! To do this, first repeat the following phrase like a mantra: “over, under, over.”

Consequently, grab the strand on the farthest right, flip it over the second strand, under the third strand, and over the fourth.

Repeat the above procedure until the entire loaf is braided, always starting with the strand farthest to the right.

Your final product will look artful indeed.

Probably you should open your own bakery.

Tuck the pinched ends under, and then gently lay the braided bread on a greased baking sheet.

Repeat the braiding-routine for the remaining dough.

OR, “flash” freeze the second loaf on a baking sheet. When solidly frozen, you can seal it in plastic, and save it for another day. Frozen, it will keep for weeks. Just let it thaw for 5 hours or so before proceeding with the following steps:

Paint the braided beauties with one beaten egg (I did not add water to my “egg wash”). Then set the loaves in a warm place to rise until nearly double — 30-45 minutes.

Before baking, paint with egg again (the extra coating will give the bread a spectacular sheen), and then sprinkle the tops, if you wish, with poppy seeds or sesame seeds.

Bake until the loaves are brown and beautiful, and when they sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles — about 35 minutes.  As they bake, your entire house will be filled with the most glorious aroma on earth.

Let the bread cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before cutting.

This bread slices beautifully.

It pulls apart beautifully, too.  And just look at the soft, sweet, egg-cellent interior!

And here’s a handy-dandy copy-and-paste version of the above recipe:

Challah (egg bread)
Kevin Lee Jacobs (www.kevinleejacobs.com)
Ingredients for two 12- to 15-inch loaves
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 large organic eggs, beaten
5 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little more for dusting the work-surface)
Egg wash: 1 well-beaten egg
Optional toppings: poppy seeds or sesame seeds

1. In a one-quart measure or a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 1/3 cups of warm water. Let the yeast sit until it foams — about 5 minutes. Then whisk in the sugar, olive oil, salt, and 3 beaten eggs.

2. Pour the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast mixture, and stir with a spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Then pour the dough onto your lightly-floured work surface, and knead it 50 times. Let rest for 2 minutes to relax the gluten, and then continue kneading for 25 more strokes. The dough is done when it no longer sticks to your work surface, and when its surface appears smooth. Wash out and dry the bowl, and then coat it with a thin layer of grease.

3. Form the dough into a ball, set it in the greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume — about 2 hours. Punch down and let rise again until nearly double — about 1 hour.

4. Deflate the dough, then cut it in half. Return one half to the bowl. Cut the other half into 4 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each segment into a 12-15-inch strand. Place the strands parallel to each other, and then pinch their tips together to seal. Repeating the mantra “over, under, over,” take the strand farthest to the right, flip it over the second strand, under the third strand, and over the fourth. Repeat this procedure until the entire loaf is braided, always starting with the strand farthest to the right. Pinch the lower ends together, and then gently transfer the braided bread to a greased baking sheet.

Repeat the braiding-routine for the remaining dough. Place the loaves 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet.

5. Brush the loaves with a beaten egg, and then set them in a warm place to rise until nearly double — 30-45 minutes. Then give the loaves a second coating of egg wash, and sprinkle the tops with the optional poppy or sesame seeds.

Bake on the middle rack of the preheated 375° oven until perfectly browned and beautiful — 30-40 minutes. Let cool briefly on a wire rack before serving.

Promise me you’ll try this heavenly Challah some day, okay? Again, the dough is really is easy to work with. Plus, you’ll have a great time braiding the dough!

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s email updates.

Related Deliciousness:
Lamb (or Pork) Chops with Rosemary & Mint
Butternut Squash Pancakes
Persian Lime Pie

Comments

  1. Kate says:

    Oh, don’t they look gorgeous! I will definitely have to try this recipe, and then make french toast with some of it.

  2. Susan says:

    My dad used to make this bread every Thanksgiving. He loved to bake, and our home was always filled with the wonderful aromas of fresh baked bread and bisquits. I have never baked bread before, but I am going to make a test batch for myself, then surprise the family with several loaves on Thanksgiving. Thanks, Kevin, for bringing back a beautiful memory of my dad, and for giving me the courage to bake this bread.

  3. Betty Elder says:

    This bread looks fabulous and very easy to make. Kevin what I’d like to know is why in your ingredient list you don’t recommend using organic flour? I have read some of your post and have seen that you know that wheat if it is not organic it has been genetically modified, so is there a specific reason you are not encouraging organic? Thanks and keep up the good work:-))

  4. Marjean says:

    Beautiful challah, Kevin! I remember going to our local Jewish bakery in the Philly area on Friday mornings to get some challah for the weekend. At least a quarter of one of the loaves never made it back to the house as challah is easily pulled apart in perfectly sized bites to eat as you’re driving.

    And just a FYI, @Betty Elder. GMO wheat is not grown in the US. It’s not licensed for sale or production here – yet. That may change in the future if Monsanto gets it way. Luckily for me we have locally grown, organic wheat flour available where I live now. Bliss!

  5. Scott Trudell says:

    Kevin… Our high today reached a balmy minus 7 degrees in Madison, WI. I didn’t venture outside at all, but it was a great day to have the oven on and try your Challah. It turned out fabulously… And so looking forward to French toast tomorrow morning.

  6. Scott – So glad you tried (and liked) this Challah. Freezing here too — 5F just now, and I think the high today will be something like 10F. Stay warm!

  7. Sue Wein says:

    OH Kevin…the heating pad tip..awesome..On the first rise now..can’t wait…what a great day to be home baking Challah!

  8. Sue Wein – A great day for turning on the oven. Let me know how the bread turns out for you. I, of course, think it’s heaven on earth!

  9. Helga Maria Szameit says:

    To your editor: even though the recipes are available here, I will still buy the book!
    I am not as organized as a book!

  10. paula K says:

    Can vouch for the heating pad method, worked like a charm for raised cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls. In winter we use the radiant heat floor( dough pans on a couple books on floor) but can’t when our grand-dog visits because the dough would then be within doggie reach.
    The heating pad was perfect!!

  11. Sandra Allen says:

    I love the heating pad for keeping the dough warm. You always have such good solutions.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Sandra

  12. Hannah says:

    Looks good!

    You can shave a lot of time off the process by skipping that middle rising. After the first rising, punch down the dough, form it into braids and then let it rise again. To save even more time, let that last rise go on for only about 20 minutes, then put the braided loaves into a cold oven. Preheat the oven with the loaves in it. That will finish the rise. Bake as usual, timing from when the oven reaches 350.

    Honey (local, raw) in place of sugar gives a slightly different flavor, but cut back the amount.

  13. Loma says:

    Any chance it could be made gluten-free, or at least wheat-free, and still turn out this good? Do you have a favorite wheat-free flour that works well?

  14. Deborah R says:

    I grew up eating this in our Hungarian community but we just called it egg bread. (we’re not Jewish)
    My dad would baked a whole ham in beer, slice it thin and we would eat it on this sweet bread.
    Divine! Can’t wait to make this! It’s been years.

  15. Beverley Patrick says:

    Hi Kevin
    When I retired last year and actually delved into the internet, I happened onto your site. Your sense of humour, your awesome ideas and “how to 101″ have inspired me to no end. I just finished having a good laugh at your antics on baking this bread! Thanks so much and keep it coming!
    Bev at Windsong (our drafty old farmstead)

  16. Lori says:

    Hi Kevin:

    Your bread looks so good. I have been making a lot of whole wheat loaves lately. They have been turning out fabulously. I have some tricks that might be helpful to your followers.

    I always use bottled water to avoid chemicals in the tap water that might interfere with the yeast. I boil a potato in the water to extract some starch. The yeast loves to eat it so it really helps the dough rise. I have also discovered that mixing the dough in my Kitchen Aid really works a charm. I usually mix for a couple of minutes when first mixing the dough, when it is still quite liquid. Then I add the rest of the flour and let the Kitchen Aid knead it for me. I always get bored and give up when I do it by hand. And it takes a lot less time when the Kitchen Aid does it.

    Love your info. Hope I get to cook with you some time!

    Your old pal,
    Lor

  17. Alicia says:

    My mom use to buy this Heavenly Challah bread at the neighborhood bakery for weekday brunch gathering with her sisters and the little cousins not attending school yet.
    So, we grew up eating this tasty bread. I never really knew the name and only went by Sweet Egg bread. Kevin, your Heavenly Challah Bread looks delicious, and I can taste it:)
    I will try to make it myself this weekend :) Thank you, Alicia O’Neal.

  18. Christine Thiessen says:

    Beautiful! I have made similar ones and added lemon zest for a wonderful lemon flavor too.
    I always use your heating pad idea to let my dough rise now and it works like MAGIC!
    Thank you for all you do!
    Chris

  19. Nancy Fopeano says:

    Looks fabulous. Love Challah! You make it look so easy I may try it… even with my yeast dough phobia.

  20. jean says:

    Hey Kevin,

    If you make a lot of bread and have a Costco or Sam’s near you, then you can buy the pound of yeast in the little silver bag and it costs somewhere around $5-6 dollars. I fill up my little jar, then close the rest of the silver bag up and put it in a baggie and put it in my freezer. As my little jar gets empty, refill it with what is in the freezer. I’ve had it over a year in the freezer and it still works great. A great money-saver as for a little more money than what the jar costs you get a whole pound of the stuff. Even though it says it has to be used us right away, it doesn’t if you store it in the freezer. Been doing that for years and it has never failed me yet.

    Jean

  21. I love baking, sadly I have an very old electric oven that, depending upon temperature, is either too hot or too cold and the management refuses to give us a new one! The maintenance guy says it works fine. I told him he is not cooking with it, I am. Sigh.

    I have reluctantly given up on baking/cooking in the oven as long as we are in this apartment.

  22. Valerie C. says:

    I’ve never made this, but, your recipe is inspiring me to try :) I can’t wait to buy your cookbook!!!

  23. Lynne says:

    This is very similar to my recipe, developed over a couple of years and included in a friend’s cook book. I call it my $100,000 loaf because when I was with the Opera in Cincinnati whenever a board member gave or got $100,000 for the company, they got a loaf of my bread. Believe me, they always remembered to ask for one! Challah is also great for toasting or French Toast. Makes me want to break out the yeast!

  24. I can barely make cookies, but am willing to try this as you point out; is ridiculously easy and heavenly to eat!

  25. Demetria says:

    Thank you….. & Tell your editor not to worry. I will still buy your cookbook!!!

  26. betty troutman a says:

    dear kevin–the pretty clear plastic zippered blanket containers are the perfect addition to your heating pad bread proofer.–pasteboard in bottom-heating pad-towel to cover. easyt; store. mine measures 17by15-7 in tall. perfect for yougurt and large size loves. i always look foreward to your saturday offerings—which have yet to disappoint….glad to have met you..b.

  27. Amanda Wiersma says:

    Kneading up a batch of this now! The dough is beautiful :)

  28. Amanda – Great! Let me know how the bread turns out for you.

  29. Pam says:

    Made this bread yesterday….. it was easy to do, delicious and looks so pretty. Ate some warm for dinner last night and had some as toast this morning. Equally yummy. I will make this again.

    Thank you, Kevin, for sharing this recipe despite what your publisher would like you to do. I have made a number of your recipes and look forward to making more. It would be terrific to have them all in a book (hope you are considering something with a spiral binder… to make it easy to use in the kitchen). :)

    Also, put my winter sowing jugs out yesterday…. a dozen so far. Hope to get some eryngium, helleborres, quince, amaranth, heliopsis and black hollyhocks. I am glad you reminded us all to do it this year. Never hurts to review the instructions. I had an issue last year with the name of each planting fading in the sun by the time the seedlings were ready to come out. This year, after writing the name with a sharpie on the outside of the milk jug, I reached inside and traced it again on the inside of the jug. I’ll let you know if that works. Any other suggestions?

  30. Elaine says:

    Kevin I love that green spoon and I love your web site. I used to make bread every week when my kids were little, now I rarely have the time. So I cook vicariously thru my cook book collection, tell your editor not to worry I will definitely buy your book.

  31. Marjie T. says:

    Can I use “better for bread” flour with this?
    Love the heating pad idea…has made all the difference:)

  32. jan bee says:

    Kevin … the bread looks absolutely gorgeous! I will try and make it tomorrow. bet it won’t last long

  33. Marg Buck says:

    I M going to try this. Looks so good. I will buy the book. Keep posting recipes.

  34. Lisa in CO says:

    Kevin – As usual, your visuals are perfect, your humor right on and the outcome is inspiring! Used to make bread and now I want to again just to try the heating pad secret! Thanks!

  35. Oriane says:

    Bonjour Kevin,

    Just baked 2 loaves of and sampled some (still warm from the oven); it is heavenly, much easier to make than I thought and so much better that store bought. The house smells delicious :)

  36. Carin says:

    Kevin, Yum! What a great share! Challa is always. A welcome treat… For a variation try adding a generous helping of really good vanilla , changes it just enough to be a bit different and really good for the French toast everyone seems to want to make. Looking forward t that cookbook of yours!

  37. Don Duffy says:

    You’re both right about GMO’s …
    http://rt.com/usa/monsanto-lawsuits-gmo-wheat-603/

    It is not allowed in the US but is being grown and sold unknowingly by many….

  38. Charlotte D says:

    the heating pad is a GREAT idea. I have an electric oven so when I bake bread, I take the small lamp off my desk and ‘aim’ it at my bread to get that warm place where I can get the dough to rise. Can’t wait to try this recipe.

  39. Amanda Wiersma says:

    Scrumptious! Looked just like your fabulous loaves, dough was super nice to work with, and it did make the best French toast the following morning. Thanks for another go-to recipe! Do you even know how many I have turned onto your tomato pie??? Lol

  40. Nancy Eldridge says:

    I am curious as another one of your fans, about the organic eggs but you use regular flour. Do you ever use wheat flour or organic flour?

  41. staylotn says:

    This is gorgeous!

  42. jan bee says:

    I baked two loaves today …. absolutely lovely and fluffy and a great hit with the family. thank you so much for the recipe.

  43. francesca says:

    I grew up in Silver Spring (Kemp Mill) in the 90′s…back then it was a very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and I remember snack on this at friend’s homes and dying. Thanks for bringing me back to childhood :) Looks delicious!!

  44. Sandy says:

    Made two loaves yesterday…so easy and so good. French Toast today was delicious! Great directions for braiding…thank you for a wonderful recipe.

  45. Barbi B. says:

    I luv this recipe–however, at the start, I was waiting quite awhile for the yeast to show ‘life’, but didn’t. I was ready to throw it out when I realized the sugar wasn’t added, as stated in the instructions. So that part of the recipe was a little misleading. Sorry.

  46. Marie says:

    Made two loaves yesterday. They turned out beautifully. Dough was very easy to work. Looking forward to making French toast for breakfast.

    I haven’t seen my winter sowing jugs for weeks. They are buried in the snow but with the temperatures warming up for the next few days I hope they will emerge so I can check on them.

  47. Janice says:

    Kevin, I made this challah and I have found my staple bread! I substitute honey for the sugar and I am just in love with the flavor and texture of the bread!!! I make this at least once a week and it is gone in no time!

    Love your Blog. I use so much from here. Have my winter sowed veggies started though here in OR the weather is mostly rain…

    Have a fantabulous weekend!!

  48. sherry kanoski says:

    love this recipe. have made Challah for years at Easter. to the gal who forgot the sugar, yeast must have salt and sugar. Do not try reducing either item or yeast will not be happy. I have a chilly kitchen, too, so I turn on my oven…for just a minute…till it gets cozy and warm in there. I turn off the oven and put my very grateful bowl of dough in the oven to snuggle and happily rise. Used to use the gas oven warmed by pilot light…now a thing of the past. I make sure the rack above the bowl gives dough room to double.

  49. Cindy Marino says:

    Kevin this looks someways to make, Challah makes great French toast!

  50. Cindy Marino says:

    Should have said so easy to make…sorry

  51. Charlotte D says:

    Finally got a chance to make the bread. I tried a ‘shortcut’ by using the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid. Dough is too sticky and I ended up having to pull it off the hook anyway. Aside from that, the heating pad worked perfectly. It was my most successful and delicious bread baking effort so Thank You! Have you ever made English muffin bread?

  52. Kattrinka says:

    I can see this in my very near future…..Titan too….but he will be the catalyst :)

  53. kimberly Bright says:

    Omg Kevin! This bread is fabulous!! So yummy! I never rarely ever make bread! But this looked so good I had to try it! So easy, beautiful, delicious and fun to make! I will def make this again! Thanks Kevin! Love love ur emails and Facebook page!

  54. Lynne says:

    I use honey instead of sugar, one more egg, and less oil. I love your braiding technique. My bread recipe is included in a friends cook book. It took me three years of trial and error to create my” $100,000 Bread”. I worked for an arts organization and any board member who got or gave $100,000 got a loaf of my bread! It worked wonders.

  55. Amazon says:

    Hello mates, nice piece of writing and good arguments commented here, I am actually enjoying by
    these.

Speak Your Mind

*