I have been meaning to write about this challah recipe for a very long time! I wrote about another challah a while back, and it was the first one that I really loved, but this one is my very favorite, and since trying it, I have never looked for another. This recipe comes from Jeffrey Hamelman, master baker, and just all around really great guy. During the quarantine, he and Gesine Bullock-Prado did an amazing live-stream show through King Arthur Baking Company called the Isolation Baking Show. I learned so much from watching that show, and it was so comforting during those early days of lock-down. The challah episode I must have watched a million times, just to absorb as much of Jeffrey’s magic as possible.
So of course I had to try Jeffrey’s challah. His recipe makes two large loaves, or three medium sized loaves, which seemed overwhelming to me, so I cut down the recipe to make two medium loaves, which works nicely. This challah is moist, fluffy, lightly sweet, feathery, and just melts in your mouth. I hope you give it a try. Since I reduced the recipe, I only mostly have weights for the ingredients, as opposed to volume, so you’ll have to break out your kitchen scale. It’s better and more precise that way anyway. Trust me. And another thing: if you want good results, please use King Arthur all-purpose flour. It is perfect for this recipe. And just for the fun of it, I tried using olive oil for this bread… not extra virgin olive oil, but just plain old olive oil, nice and mild, and I was very happy with how the bread turned out. I will include a picture tutorial at the bottom of the post with lots of details.
(from Jeffrey Hamelman’s recipe)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 44 grams vegetable oil
- 200 grams cold water
- 622 grams King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 66 grams granulated sugar
- 2 tsp sea salt (12 grams)
- 1 Tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
(You will need another egg for the egg wash)
- Put all ingredients in a large bowl in order listed above.
- Mix with a large wooden spoon or dough whisk until the dough starts to come together. It will seem stiff and dry at first.
- Once you’ve done all you can with the spoon or dough whisk, knead the dough in the bowl using one hand, rotating the bowl as you go, until the dough becomes more cohesive and starts to clean the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead until the dough is nice and firm, and becomes difficult to knead with one hand.
- Turn dough out onto a clean, dry work surface – NO FLOUR!!!! And continue to knead with two hands. The dough should be very firm. Knead until the dough becomes smooth and silky. The entire mixing and kneading process takes me maybe 15 minutes. Near the end of the kneading, grab the dough and slap it down on the work surface with some force, then fold it over onto itself. Repeat a couple of times, rotating the dough a quarter turn each time. This should tighten up the dough and really get it to that nice smooth texture. If this sounds confusing, just grab the dough and slap the work surface several times with it, and don’t be timid. Shape into a ball.
- Place dough back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or other bowl cover. Leave on counter for an hour, then place the dough in the refrigerator for another hour to hour and a half.
- Lightly oil your work surface. I just add about a half teaspoon of oil and spread it onto my work surface very thinly with a paper towel. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (it will perhaps have doubled in size) and divide the dough in half for two medium loaves. Starting with one half, divide into three or four pieces (depending on what kind of braid you will make) and shape the pieces into little logs. Cover with plastic wrap and do the same with the other half of the dough. Cover and let the dough rest for twenty minutes.
- Roll out the first set of logs into long strands (around 14″ to 16″). Move strands to an adjacent work area and lightly sprinkle with flour (so the strands don’t stick to each other) and braid. The light coating of flour will ensure that the strands maintain their definition while the loaves are rising. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with greased plastic wrap. Repeat with the second set of logs. Place a tea towel over the loaves and let rise on the counter for 60 minutes.
- After the 60 minutes, preheat your oven to 375° and put an oven rack in the lower third of your oven. Let the loaves continue to rise on the counter for another 30 minutes while your oven is preheating. Loaves should look puffy and almost jiggly.
- When loaves are ready (when they are quite puffy), mix one egg with 1 teaspoon water and brush the loaves with the egg wash, covering every nook and cranny. You can start with one loaf, then to the other, then go back to the first and egg wash again, and back to the second and egg wash again. If you wish to add sesame or poppy seeds, sprinkle them on now.
- Place the baking sheet with the loaves on it on an upside down baking sheet (I actually do this part much sooner so I don’t forget), which will ensure that the bottoms of the loaves don’t burn. Place the whole thing in your preheated oven on the lower rack. Bake for twenty minutes. At the twenty minute mark, if the loaves look like they are already dark enough, tent with aluminum foil and bake for 5 minutes longer. The loaves are ready when they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and an instant-read thermometer registers 190°. Let loaves cool on wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before storing at room temperature in a bread bag. Stored properly, the bread will stay fresh for a couple of days, if it lasts that long…
Okay, so here is the picture tutorial. I hope you find it helpful.
If you would like to see a video of me making this four strand braid, you can see it here. My videographer (she is ten) kept zooming in and out, so if you get motion sickness from watching the video, take a break and have a cup of tea.