Challah

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Dough Yield: About

    30

    braids at 1.125 lb each

Appears in

Bread

By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

Challah is a Classic Braided Egg Bread of European origin. It is wonderfully versatile, and can be formed into innumerable braids and rolls, seeded or not, or baked in loaf pans, braided or not. It keeps well due to the substantial amount of eggs and oil in the dough. Old challah makes delectable French toast. The challah described here is the same as that used for the braiding exercises in Chapter 9.

U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
Bread Flour 13.4 lb 6.7 kg 1 lb, 5.4 oz (4⅞ cups) 67%
High-Gluten Flour 6.6 lb 3.3 kg 10.6 oz (2⅜ cups) 33%
Sugar 1.6 lb .8 kg 2.6 oz (5 T) 8%
Yolks 1.5 lb .75 kg 2.4 oz (4 yolks) 7.5 %
Whole Eggs 2.8 lb 1.4 kg 4.5 oz (2 Eggs) 14%
Vegetable Oil 1.5 lb .75 kg 2.4 oz ( T) 7.5 %
Water 6.4 lb 3.2 kg 10.2 oz ( cups) 32%
Salt .38 lb .19 kg .6 oz (1 T) 1.9 %
Yeast .6 lb, fresh .3 kg, fresh .32 oz, instant dry ( tsp) 3%
Total Yield 34.78 lb 17.39 kg 3 lb, 7 oz 173.9 %

Method

  1. MIXING: Place all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for 3 minutes until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, then on second for approximately 5 minutes (mix for about 6 minutes on second speed if using a planetary or stand mixer). The comparatively long second speed mixing is necessary to develop a strong gluten network. This in turn ensures lofty braids, each strand standing out proudly from its neighbor. The dough will be stiff, which is appropriate for braiding. The desired dough temperature is 78° to 80°F.
  2. BULK FERMENTATION: 2 hours. The dough can also rise overnight. In this case, lower the desired dough temperature to 75°F, and after 1 hour of bulk fermentation, degas the dough, cover it well with plastic, and refrigerate. Degas twice more over the next few hours. A colder dough temperature makes it easier to form strands. The dough can be divided and shaped straight from refrigeration.
  3. FOLDING: The dough is quite strong coming off the mixer, so a true strength-inducing fold is not necessary. Instead, degas the dough once by gently pressing out the built up fermentation gases after 1 hour of fermentation.
  4. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into appropriate-sized pieces. Preshape round or as blunt cylinders and let rest on an unfloured work surface, covered with plastic. When relaxed enough to be elongated without tearing, usually 10 to 15 minutes, roll out the strands and form the braids. Once braided, proof the loaves covered with baker’s linen and a sheet of plastic to prevent the formation of a skin. If using a proof box with humidity, set the controls low enough to prevent excess humidity from causing the individual strands to merge together.
  5. FINAL FERMENTATION: 1½ to 2 hours at about 76°F.
  6. BAKING: Before baking, thoroughly egg wash the surface of the loaves. If desired, sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds on top. Bake without steam at 380°F. Baking time is determined by the size of the loaves. Pan loaves will take longer to bake than freestanding loaves. A braid weighing 18 ounces (1.125 pounds) should bake in about 30 minutes. If the oven has vents, they should remain open throughout the bake.

Note

The challah dough can be retarded overnight in bulk form. In this case, the desired dough temperature is 75° to 78°F. After mixing, bulk ferment at room temperature for 1 hour, then place the dough in the retarder or refrigerator. The dough should be degassed twice during the first 4 to 6 hours of refrigeration. The benefits of overnight retarding are improved dough texture and keeping quality. Colder dough temperature also makes it easier to form strands.

Variation

A tasty variation is to make bread sticks with the challah dough. Cut individual dough pieces at 1.33 ounces (38 g)—with a 36-part dough divider, the weight of each press is 3 pounds, or 1.36 kg. Relax the dough, covered with plastic, for 10 or 15 minutes, then roll the individual pieces to about 16 inches long. Once rolled, the bread sticks can be left plain, or rolled into a damp cloth and then into a tray of sesame or poppy seeds. An alternative method for making bread sticks is to take the desired weight of dough and press it into a flat rectangle. Using a pizza roller or sharp knife, individual bread sticks can be cut off the main bulk of dough. This is possibly the quickest method, but take care that the bread sticks are as close as possible to being equal in weight so that they bake uniformly. Whatever method is chosen, allow the shaped bread sticks to rest for 15 to 20 minutes, then bake at 380°F for about 20 minutes, or until evenly brown and crisp. They will keep well for several days in an airtight container, and can be recrisped by warming for a few minutes at 350°F.