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Easy, Awesome Challah Bread

ISN’T IT PRETTY?!?!

Easy, Awesome Challah Bread

Seriously, this bread is just beautiful. And it’s not just beautiful, it’s amazingly soft and flavorful and perfect.

Easy, Awesome Challah Bread cut

I’d never had challah bread before this, but basically it’s a yeast-leavened, lightly-sweet braided dough made with eggs, then brushed with an egg wash before baking. It can be soft or dense, made with many different grains, created into other shapes (spirals, circles, birds, etc.), but at its heart it’s just a slighly sweet eggy bread.

Easy, Awesome Challah Bread with Honey

And I can’t imagine that it gets much better than this recipe! First-try bread recipes can be tricky sometimes, and rarely are they absolutely perfect the first time. But this recipe was super forgiving (I let it rise quite a bit longer than the recipe called for), the braiding was super easy, and the final product made me want to eat ALL THE BREAD. And I’m not even a bread person…

Easy, Awesome Challah Bread done

Let’s just look at it again, shall we???

Okay, moving on…

easy awesome challah bread yeast proof

Warm up the water in the microwave for about 30 seconds until warm (you can feel with your finger, should be warm but not hot). Add the water to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes (a little longer in my case), until good and foamy.

easy awesome challah bread dough wet

Add 2 eggs, honey, oil (or butter), and salt, and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes, until well combined.

easy awesome challah bread dough done

Remove the paddle and replace with the dough hook, then add 3 cups of the flour. With the mixer on low, allow the hook to fold in the flour gently (it will take a minute or two).

The recipe said to sprinkle in the remaining 1/2 cup flour at this point (until barely incorporated), but my dough was already a little on the dry side so I didn’t end up using that extra half cup. Don’t actively knead the dough (it will still be very soft and kind of sticky).

easy awesome challah bread dough rising

easy awesome challah bread dough risen

Put the dough into a lightly greased large mixing bowl (don’t knead), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours (I gave it a little longer).

easy awesome challah bread dough floured

When it’s doubled in size, gently punch the dough down (don’t really punch, just kind of push your fists in to deflate it). Then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

easy awesome challah bread dough three pieces

Divide the dough in half (because you’re making two loaves). If it’s sticky, use floured hands to work with it but don’t work lots of extra flour into it (it’ll toughen the dough up).

Then divide your first piece into three equal pieces and place on a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

easy awesome challah bread dough three rolls

Roll each portion out into a long (about 12-inch) cylinder. The dough is very springy and will want to shrink back, but just gently and patiently keep stretching it with your hands.

easy awesome challah bread dough braided closeup

After you have 3 long cylinders about 1-inch each in diameter, place them on the baking mat/tray. Pinch one end of all three together and start braiding, just like braiding hair. When you reach the end, pinch the other ends together, and then tuck both ends of the braided loaf underneath to make it neat (and hold everything together). Repeat the same for the other lump of dough.

easy awesome challah bread braided second rise

easy awesome challah bread braided second rise closeup

Cover your dough braids with plastic wrap (loosely, I also threw a flour sack towel over it) and allow them to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes (twice that for refrigerated dough).  Mine was fresh but I still let it rise closer to an hour to get really good and puffy.

easy awesome challah bread egg wash

Preheat the oven to 350 F towards the end of your second rise.

Beat 1 egg and, just before you bake, *gently* (DON’T SMOOSH IT!) brush the eggwash all over loaf (I didn’t use the whole amount of egg).

Easy, Awesome Challah Bread baked

Easy, Awesome Challah Bread finished

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the challah is a pale golden and set. Allow the bread to cool before slicing or pulling apart and serving. Can be kept in plastic wrap, then placed in an airtight container or ziploc bag.

Easy, Awesome Challah Bread cut2

Softest, deliciousest bread ever. Even more amazing with honey.

Easy, Awesome Challah Bread

Makes 2 loaves

  • Scant 1 cup of water, warmed to about 105 to 115F for most yeast (125F for Platinum yeast)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast (one regular packet)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup of canola or vegetable oil, or 1/4 cup butter (oil creates a softer loaf, butter creates a crustier crust; I loved the oil dough)
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 3/4 tablespoon of salt (yes, this is right)
  • 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (you could substitute some bread flour if a chewier bread is preferred, I just didn’t have any)
  • 1 large egg, for eggwash

Make the Dough

Add the water to a glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds until warm (using your finger, it should feel warm but not hot). Add the water to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, until good and foamy.

Add 2 eggs, honey, oil (or butter), and salt, and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes, until well combined. Remove the paddle and put on the dough hook, then add 3 cups of the flour. With the mixer on low, allow the hook to fold in the flour gently, it will take a minute or two. The recipe said to sprinkle in the remaining 1/2 cup flour at this point (until barely incorporated), but my dough was already a little on the dry side so I didn’t end up using that extra half cup. Don’t actively knead the dough (it will still be very soft and kind of sticky).

Assemble the Dough

Put the dough into a lightly greased large mixing bowl (don’t knead), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Gently punch the dough down. [Note, dough can be stored in refrigerator for up to 5 days before baking it later; in this case, place the dough in a bowl or container with a lid but allow the lid to remain slightly ajar].

Divide the dough in half. If it’s sticky, use floured hands to work with it but don’t work lots of extra flour into it (it’ll toughen the dough up). Divide your piece into three equal pieces and place on a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper-lined sheet. Roll each portion out into a long (about 12-inch) cylinder. The dough is very springy and will want to shrink back, but just gently and patiently keep stretching it with your hands.

After you have 3 long cylinders about 1-inch each in diameter, place them on the baking mat/tray. Pinch one end of all three together and start braiding, just like braiding hair. When you reach the end, pinch the other ends together, and then tuck both ends of the braided loaf underneath to make it neat (and hold everything together). Repeat the same for the other lump of dough. Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes (about an hour and a half for refrigerated dough).  Mine was fresh but I let it rise closer to an hour to get really good and puffy.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Beat 1 egg and, just before you bake, *gently* brush the eggwash all over loaf (I didn’t use the whole amount of egg). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the challah is a pale golden and set. Allow the bread to cool before slicing or pulling apart and serving. Can be kept in plastic wrap, then placed in an airtight container or ziploc bag.

Note:  since this dough has eggs in it, if you’re refrigerating the dough make sure to use it within five days.

Original recipe here

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