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EpicureanPiranha | April 3rd, 2011 - 16:00

Challah is one of my favourite egg breads ~ the aroma of the loaves baking is sublime, and the rich dough is incredibly tender whith just a hint of sweetness! With cold butter, and perhaps some wild berry preserves, I could easily eat a whole loaf when it’s still warm from the oven (I actually did this a few years ago!).  But I’d never tried baking one until last year. After researching recipes for this delicious Jewish specialty in my cookbooks and on the web, I had chosen the recipe I’d found in the Fleischmann’s Yeast “Best Ever Breads”cookbook (using Fleischmann’s traditional active dry yeast). The proportion of butter and eggs seemed the most promising for what I wanted to achieve.

My first Challah - Fleischmann Yeast recipe - IV 04F

My first Challah, prepared using the Fleischmann’s Yeast recipe.

I have to admit that I was very pleased with the results. The baked loaves looked gorgeous, and had a wonderful flavour and texture. But the bread just wasn’t as rich tasting ~ and the dough not as golden ~ as I’d hoped! So I went back to my research, but still could not find a recipe that seemed better. Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided I’d have to create my own recipe!

Epi's Own Challah Recipe 06

Rich, golden loaves of challah, prepared from my own recipe.

The result was, to say the least, fabulous! But this assessment is not only my own! Several friends and family members, including my sister, who are excellent bakers and foodies, all agreed. My parents are probably the most critical bread eaters I know, and for good cause! One of my aunts on my mother’s side and my grandmother on my father’s side made the most exquisite breads! I’ve had bread that tasted as good as my aunt’s, but never tasted better, even in Europe where I lived for 21 years! And my parent’s verdict was also that my recipe for challah produced the best egg bread they had ever tasted.

Epi's Own Challah Recipe - sliced

Slices of my rich, golden egg bread, still warm from the oven, with a jar of my home-made golden-amber caramel ~ ambrosia!

The bread cooks to a gorgeous golden brown, and the dough is wonderfully tender, and has the colour of pale yellow beaten eggs. The aroma while it’s baking and once it’s out of the oven is quite simply impossible to resist! Perfection! I had several pieces of it while it was warm, with cold butter and some of my golden amber home-made caramel ~ sheer delight!

After having tasted literally dozens upon dozens of challahs in Montreal, England, and New York, only one baker I knew of made a richer tasting loaf that was as lovely in texture ~ and I’ve tasted hundreds of different Challah!!! He is based in London, in Mill Hill East, where I lived for several years. But now, to my delight, I can say I have created a challah recipe that beats his hands down ! I do hope you will give it a try and let me know what you think ♥

Oh, and I must also tell you that the second time I baked some of this bread, I had an extra yolk, so I added that as well (i.e. for a total of 4 large eggs and 5 large egg yolks). Oh my! It was almost like brioche, but I liked this more ♥

Epi’s Rich Challah Bread

Quantity Ingredient  
20 ml Granulated sugar
250 ml Warm water (38C)
30 ml Active dry yeast
150ml Liquid manuka or other honey
4 large Eggs, room temperature
4 large Egg yolks, room temperature Lightly beat eggs with yolks.
150 g Butter, melted  
10 ml Salt
1,750 l All-purpose flour
350 ml Golden raisins (optional)
Glaze:
1 Large egg yolk, lightly beaten
30 ml Poppy seeds or sesame seeds

Preparation

NB: I used a powerful KitchenAid® mixer to make this dough, but any heavy duty mixer can be used, or prepare it according to the traditional method for making bread which I describe in detail in my How-to section on making great bread.

  • Warm the large bowl of your stand mixer with hot water. Empty this then dissolve the sugar in the warm water specified in my recipe above. Sprinkle in the yeast; let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes.
  • Add honey and the beaten eggs and yolks to dissolved yeast. Beat with paddle attachment for 10 seconds on speed 2.
  • Add melted butter and salt, and beat on speed 2 for 10 seconds.

NB: For the following steps always start at the “stir” setting and never use a setting higher than 2.

  • Add 500 ml flour to yeast mixture and beat 15 seconds or until well blended, using paddle attachment. Scrape down the bowl once.
  • Add another 500 ml flour and beat 15 seconds or until well blended, using paddle attachment. Scrape down bowl once.
  • Switch to dough hook, cleaning paddle well and add any bits of dough to mixture in bowl.
  • Add another 500 ml flour and knead 30 seconds or until well blended, using dough hook. Scrape down bowl once.
  • Add the last 250 ml flour and knead 15 to 30 seconds or until well blended, using dough hook. Scrape down bowl once or twice. Knead another 30 seconds.
  • Touch dough. If it feels sticky, add about 30 ml flour and knead in well, about 60 seconds. If dough is really sticky, add another 30 ml and knead, but make sure dough is not too dry!
  • Knead for another 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. NB: A more moist dough is tougher to handle but once baked will yield a more delicate texture.
  • Gather into a ball and place in a clean, lightly greased bowl (I use butter), turning dough so that it is completely covered. Cover the bowl loosely with cling film and place in a draft free area; allow to rest for 50 – 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size and an indentation remains when dough is poked with 2 fingers (then it’s ready!), punch it down lightly and turn out on a floured surface. Knead lightly just a few times, kneading in raisins at this time if you wish (don’t knead more than 3 or 4 times). Let dough rest for 5 minutes or so.
  • Line a large baking sheet with a wide sheet of baking parchment, or grease the sheet lightly.
My first Challah - Fleischmann Yeast recipe - I 02

Shaping the partially raised dough into attractive braided loaves.

The following technique for making beautiful, double braided loaves is from the Fleischmann’s Yeast cookbook, but you can shape the dough into any shapes you prefer, including individual loaves.

  • Divide the dough into two. Gather half of the dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl, leaving it covered.
  • Meanwhile, take the other half and divide into two parts, one equal to 1/3 and the other 2/3 of the dough. Take the larger part, cut into three equal pieces, and roll each into a long 30.5 cm (12 inch) strand. Braid, pinch ends to seal, and place on baking sheet. Now do the same with the smaller piece of dough, rolling each 1/3 into 25.4 cm (10 inch strands). Braid, pinch the ends to seal, and place on top of larger braid.
  • Repeat with remaining dough.

Alternatively, make a single 4-strand braid like so:

  • Divide dough into quarters; roll each into 18-inch 45 cm long ropes. Place side by side on greased rimmed baking sheet; pinch together at one end. Starting at pinched end, move second rope from left over rope on its right. Move far right rope over two ropes on left. Move far left rope over 2 ropes on right. Repeat until braid is complete; tuck ends under braid.
  • Cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and allow to rise for 40 to 60 min until doubled in size.

Baking

  • Once the loaves have risen, preheat the oven to 180C (350F), and place rack in bottom third of oven.
  • Glaze the challahs with the beaten egg and water, and sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired.
  • Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes (or 35 to 45 minutes for large braid) until golden and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Don’t underbake!

12 Responses to “My Quest for the Best Challah”

  1. Plexguard says:

    Can someone please tell me how much flour I should put in the challah? Because it says to put 1,750 l All-purpose flour When I try to convert that it says 13oz which makes no sense.

    • Hi Yeshai

      1,750 l in metric equals one litre and 750 millilitres (ml). If you decide to use the “cup” measurement, then 1,750 l = 7 cups

      250 ml = a little more than one cup (ie: where 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces)

      In the metric system, the lower case letter “l” and occasionally the upper case “L” are the abbreviations for litre, and:

      one litre = 1000 ml
      = 250 ml x 4

      In baking, particularly when making bread, it’s the proportion of ingredients that matters. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what measure you use for ingredients, as long as the proportion of each ingredient to the others is maintained. So, for example, if you decide to use an 8 fluid ounce cup as your base measure, then you should not mix this with metric cups which are in ml.

      It’s more difficult to convert litres (or millilitres) to grams or ounces (ie: weight as opposed to fluid), because to get the correct conversion you have to be able to specify what you are weighing. For example, when measuring the same volumes of each, butter will weigh more than all-purpose flour. Different types of flour will also have different weights per volume! I used ml in my recipe because I learned how to make bread from my aunt using my grandmother’s bread recipe, and measurements were in cups way back then. So I’ve always used metric cups to measure amounts of flour when I bake breads :-)

      There are many conversion resources available on the web if ever you are wondering what a measurement in a recipe represents. You can try this one which lets you enter the measurement you want to convert, what to convert it to, as well as the ingredient: Online Conversion – Weight to Volume.

      Hope this helps and do let me know how your bread turns out!

      ~ marie, the EpicureanPiranha

  2. trevifreeze says:

    I made your recipe today exactly exactly as you had written it out and it turned out absolutely beautiful!! I am an avid bread maker and this was truly a successful recipe. Thank you thank you for this amazing and well thought out recipe (and instruction).

    • Thank you so much :-) I’m so pleased to know you like the bread and that my instructions were easy to follow! It’s always difficult for someone (like me) who knows how to bake/cook a specific recipe, to write out instructions that are useful to people who want to try making it; I don’t want to bore good cooks, but at the same time, I want to provide enough info for the novice cook to get it right…which is why I’m so pleased. And I’m especially thankful that you took the time to write me a message ~ I always look forward to feedback, because that’s how I can improve what I do so that it’s more helpful to my readers and members. So thank You, my dear!

      Have a delicious day!

      ~ marie, the EpicureanPiranha

  3. Alexandra says:

    I’m a german expat in the US. I’m confused: why are you using ml where it should be gr? One is liquid, the other volume.

    Perhaps it’s not important, but I’m befuddled.

    • Hi Alexandra

      Thank you for registering on my blog and for asking this question, which always raises lots of debate!

      The main reason is that in North America, many home bakers do not own scales (although this is changing, I hope!), but measuring cups are always graduated in both fluid ounces and milliliters. Also, it’s important to note that different types of flour will have different weights per volume. So, for example, whole-wheat flour has a greater weight per volume than all-purpose flour.

      Another reason is that I was used to making bread using 8 fluid oz cups, from many years ago! Nowadays, even though I use metric for almost everything, and all my measuring cups are metric only, I still use cups (a 250 ml cup!) to measure flour for my bread baking!

      But if you would like to convert dry measures from ml to g, then this is a good source if you live in the USA (click on the link): What’s Cooking America. And there are many other conversion guides on the net for converting baking ingredients.

      I hope this helps answer your question! And thanks again for registering. Oh, and do let me know what you think of my recipe if you bake it!

      Have a delicious day!

      ~ marie, the EpicureanPiranha

  4. Karen says:

    The description of your quest convinced me to try your Challah recipe. Even with my approximate conversions, it was phenomenal!! My search for the best challah recipe has indeed come to an end. Thank-you!

    • Hi Karen

      Just read your delightful message on my Challah recipe and I’m so happy you gave it a try and loved it!

      I’ve been very busy (with renovating & redecorating our home!), and haven’t updated my webzine in a while I’m afraid, but do have a look at EpicureanPiranha.com next week; I’ll be posting several new articles and recipes you may like!

      If there are any recipes, food, or baking/cooking-related questions you’d like answered, let me know! Take care and thank you so much for being an active member of http://www.EpicureanPiranha.com!

      Have a delicious day,

      Marie

  5. Rosie says:

    When are you going to make us more of this fantastic bread, Marie? It’s so good, and dad loves it! Your photo is so beautiful!!!

    Love,

    Mom xxx

  6. cakebooks says:

    Would dearly love to make this recipe tomorrow or Saturday, is there any way the measurements could be converted to American kitchens? I tried to look it up online but I don’t think that flour is measured by liters? I am confused but drooling over this bread, please advise?

    • Hello Amie

      I’m so sorry I missed your question and didn’t see it until today! On Friday, I was busy planning & shopping for a dinner party on Easter Sunday, and Saturday I had two unexpected guests (my sweetheart’s 2 teenaged sons each invited friends over for the day!) so ended up cooking much more than I thought on Saturday & Sunday, in addition to all the preparation!

      Before I reply more fully, thank you so much for registering and for your comment and support

      I prefer to use metric measurements for two main reasons:
      (1) weighing ingredients in grams is so much more accurate than trying to measure them by volume, and
      (2) the metric system is based on the decimal system (divisible by 10) and is so simple!

      But to answer your question:
      A simple conversion isn’t always possible, because the Imperial, US, and Australian measurement systems are all different even though they sometimes use the same terms! For example, take a cup of plain (all-purpose) flour. The cup measurement is different depending on whether it’s a Canadian, US, or Imperial cup! Which do you use? Also, an 8 fl oz cup of flour, depending on the type of flour and the humidity, will have different weights! This difference can be enough to ruin your cake or pastry.

      Whenever I mention a cup measurement in my recipes, it’s either because it’s an old recipe I’ve had handed down to me, or one that I found in a cookbook or on the web. This will be an 8 fl oz cup = 250 ml = Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African and Lebanon cup measure.

      I also use a 250 ml cup measurement for flour when making bread, simply because I learned to make bread the traditional way, with my aunt, using my grandmother’s method and recipes. My grandparents lived in the countryside, and baked in wood burning stoves back then! They didn’t even use graduated measuring cups when baking bread. I remember my grandmothers and aunties having huge tin containers of flour in their pantries, and there would be an old tea cup in the tin for scooping out small amounts. But they didn’t even use this to make bread ~ they’d just pour the flour into a huge metal bowl, then add salt and water, all by eye! Bread was made by “feel” in those days. And one of my aunts eventually figured out the measurements in cup measures. I also had very old books on baking bread, and they all used fluid ounzes as the measurement for flour. Since I like to use metric, I simply started using a 250 ml cup … so no logical explanation I’m afraid!

      That being said, you only need very precise measurements when baking cakes, cookies, fancy pastries, or when preparing candies, cooked icings, and desserts and so on. Most savoury dishes don’t require the same level of precision. Even for most cakes and desserts, I personally always use my metric measurement cups if an 8 oz cup measurement is specified ~ what’s essential in baking is proportion!

      Here’s a very short guide of approximate measures, and below this I’ve provided links to two different conversion guides, and to a conversion calculator, that you can use:

      Metric and equivalent Canadian/Australian Measures
      1 ml ~ 1/4 tsp
      2.5 ml ~ 1/2 tsp
      5 ml ~ 1 tsp
      60 ml ~ 1/4 cup
      80 ml ~ 1/3 cup
      125 ml ~ 1/2 cup
      250 ml ~ 1 cup

      There are loads of conversion guides available on the web, but some are confusing, and some are incorrect. Here are a few which are useful:

      1. The UK BBC Good Food Guide’s conversion: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/knowhow/conversion/ calculator
      2. What’s Cooking America cooking conversion guide: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/equiv.htm (for US measures)
      3. Creative Cake Decorating conversion guide: http://www.creative-cake-decorating.com/conversion-charts.html for making cakes

      I hope this helps! Please let me know if you still have any questions.

      ~ marie, the EpicureanPiranha

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