Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I realize this blog has been light on poetry lately, but I’ve been doing more cooking and baking than poetry reading. Last week, I immersed myself in The Children's Book– highly recommended if you’re an anglophile and literature nerd like me – and such sustained fiction-reading seems to have crowded all of the poetry out of my head for the moment.

I’m sure it shall return before too terribly long. Perhaps I can appease you with a fine recipe for Challah?

As you probably know, Challah is a traditional Jewish bread that has lots of eggs and a golden, rich texture. It’s probably my favorite bread. Since eggs mean protein, I can even delude myself that it’s healthy, despite its absence of whole grains.

This is very loosely based off the Challah recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I initially attempted a faithful recreation of the Challah therein, but my dough was far too dry, so I added an extra egg. I think the dry air in Connecticut right now is skewing some of my baking. The fifth egg softened the dough nicely and gave the bread the super-rich flavor and texture for which I was aiming all along. Verdict: the egg stays.

The loaf was a delight – probably the best I’d made to that point – but it was very slightly under-sweetened for my taste. Challah oughtn’t taste cloying, but I think it needs sugar undertones to offset the eggy-ness.  For my next batch (shown), I added some extra honey along with a tablespoon of white sugar.

Without further ado, I give you the second Challah recipe. If you live in a moist climate, you might need more flour or less water. Bread is really quite forgiving once you get the hang of it. Generally, it’s better to have moist doughs and to use only enough flour to enable you to handle and shape the loaf. Less-floury loaves are lighter and not as dense.

As a final note, I always make bread using my Stand Mixer with its included bread hook. I’m sure there’s something soothing and edifying about hand-kneading one’s bread, but I don’t have the time or patience for it. And the dough hook does such a fine job!


4 cups bread flour, plus more as needed or 4 cups all-purpose flour plus 4 teaspoons of vital wheat gluten (this is what I used, as it seems easier to store the small pouch of gluten than another brick of flour. You should be able to find it adjacent the flour in your grocery store.)
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs (room temp)
2 eggs divided – yolks for dough, whites for egg wash (room temp)
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons honey (or just use 3 tablespoons white sugar)
¾ cup water, warm room temp
2 tablespoons butter, melted
oil for dough

In bowl of stand mixer or large bowl, mix together flour, gluten (if using), salt, sugar, and yeast.

Stir together water, honey, butter, eggs, 3 eggs, and 2 egg yolks. Add to flour mix and stir, then knead with dough hook on high for 4-6 minutes, or until dough passes windowpane test, meaning a small piece pinched off can be stretched until semi-transparent without breaking.

Grease dough lightly with vegetable oil and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour and a half, or until doubled.

Punch down the dough and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough into 3 equal segments (or six for two small loaves, as shown) and braid them. Place on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.

Whisk together the egg whites with a tablespoon or so of water and brush the loaves with it.

Allow to rise for another hour to hour and a half, until doubled.  This is the dough after it had risen.

Brush loaf with egg wash again once risen. Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown in color and loaf makes a hollow sound when thumped.

I find it easiest to get evenly baked loaves that aren’t too brown if you make the strands fairly long and skinny before braiding.  Obviously, I am not otherwise fussy about this.

Makes one large loaf or two small loaves.  You'll want the longer baking time for a full loaf and a shorter one for the small loaves.

Because it’s basically just a white bread with eggs, Challah is simple to make and hard to altogether ruin. Just be sure to knead it long enough and give it ample rise time, and the ingredients do the work for you.

It’s practically a self-making bread.

If you fail to eat all your Challah while it’s fresh – unlikely, to be sure – stale Challah makes great French toast.

Printable recipe here.


  1. challah has always scared the wits out of me... yours looks gorgeous...maybe I will try to be brave and give it another go>

  2. @marzipanmom -- thanks!

    @lostpast, challah should be a cinch!

  3. I typed (but it erased before publishing) that you make such complicated recipes, lost past, that challah should be a cinch. :)

  4. I love challah. I always want try to make them but fear of failure :( Yours look really good!

  5. I'm sure you could pull it off. Homemade really is even nicer than the bakery kind! :)

  6. This looks divine! I'm definitely going to try it.

  7. Thanks! Hope yours turns out beautifully!

  8. It looks lovely. I think challah is a show-stopper bread!

  9. Thanks! It's really such a delightful bread. :)

  10. I'm with you on the bread hook. I don't have one but I definitely understand the appeal.

    This challah looks delicious! It is one of my favorite types of bread.

  11. Thanks! And it's totally worth investing in a bread hook if you like to bake yeasted breads. ;)

  12. Lovely challah! I'll be making this sometime soon. Thank you.

  13. No problem -- I hope you love it as much as I do!